Several Missoula legislators and one University of Montana economist were named members of a new housing task force created this week by Gov. Greg Gianforte and charged with providing recommendations to make housing more affordable and attainable.

Gianforte announced the creation of the task force in a statement released on Thursday. He appointed Sen. Ellie Boldman and Rep. Danny Tenenbaum, both Missoula Democrats, to the group.

Patrick Barkey, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, was also named to the task force, along with dozens of others from around the state.

“Owning a home is part of the American dream, but for more than a decade, it’s become harder and harder for Montanans to afford to own or rent a home,” Gianforte said. “Burdensome, restrictive, and unnecessary regulations have left Montana with a longstanding shortage of housing that continues to drive up the prices Montanans pay for their home.”

The state's population grew nearly 10% between 2010 and 2020, outpacing the state’s housing unit growth of 6.6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Growing demand and a shrinking supply has played a part in driving up home costs across the state.

Rising inflation and a supply shortage have also pushed up the cost of building a new home. Private residential construction costs have increased more than 18% nationally since last March, the Census Bureau said.

Through the Second Quarter of 2022, the median price of a home in Missoula County was $538,000 – up from $293,000 in 2018, according to the Missoula Organization of Realtors. In Mineral County, the organization said home prices have risen from $196,000 in 2018 to $415,000 this year.

“It’s critical we increase Montanans’ access to affordable, attainable housing, which is why today I launched a housing task force to get to the bottom of the problem and provide solutions to get us out of it,” Gianforte said.

Gianforte said regulations at every level of government make housing more expensive. The National Association of Home Builders estimated in 2021 that the average cost of regulation in the price of a new home rose by 44% over the last decade, from $65,000 in 2011 to $94,000 in 2021.

NAHB said that government-imposed regulations account for nearly 24% of the final price of a new single-family home.

Gianforte also noted the state's tight rental vacancy rate, which stands at 4.4% In Missoula, it has hovered at or below 1% for several years.

The governor charged the task force with providing recommendations the Legislature could consider to make housing more affordable and attainable. Gianforte also charged the task force with developing recommendations that state agencies can implement administratively, as well as recommendations and best practices local jurisdictions can enact.

Missoula's elected officials have for years lamented a number of state laws they claim limit their ability to create more affordable housing. The city also admits that its own regulations may hinder affordable housing construction or add to the price of that construction.

This year, it plans to reform its building codes to address the issue.

Gianforte's new task force will begin meeting next week.

“I’m grateful to each member of the housing task force, from the bipartisan group of legislators to stakeholders to experts to advocates for reform,” Gianforte said. “I know each of them will bring a strong voice and unique perspective to the task force. I look forward to what they will accomplish.”