Elinor Smith

HELENA (UM Legislative News Service) - As the Montana Legislature nears its final days, lawmakers from both parties are trying to make good on promises to pass legislation that could help with the state’s housing crisis.

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee heard testimony Monday on one of the last bills standing that seek to do just that. 

House Bill 819 would set up a ‘community reinvestment plan’ to make sure Montanans working in the state can find an affordable place to live, or, a place where no more than 30% of their income goes to housing costs.

If the Senate passes the amended bill, it will be sent back to the House for approval. The House first passed the bill earlier this month on a 74-25 vote. 

HB 819 would break Montana up into 16 districts, each one managed by a federally certified nonprofit, or a community reinvestment organization. The community reinvestment organizations would manage an account filled with money from the state, which they could use to buy down mortgages to sell them to Montanans and apply for additional loans from the Department of Commerce for infrastructure or for new construction.

There are rules and regulations for each community reinvestment organization, and stipulations for each loan. But essentially, they can work the program as they need to make specialized solutions for their district. 

Rep. Paul Green, R-Hardin, is the sponsor of the bill. He said it’s essentially a conglomeration of all the best housing bills proposed this session. 

“This bill has a real opportunity to help the people of Montana,” Green said. 

The bill has earned support from both the public and private sectors. Jessie Luther supported the bill on behalf of the Montana Attainable Housing Alliance.

“House Bill 819 provides a multifaceted approach to address affordable housing in Montana,” Luther said.

There were no opponents of the bill Monday and the committee did not take immediate action on the bill.