Mary Donnelly

Home ownership for every citizen who wants to own their own home. It sounds like an unrealistic goal when supply is limited and the secondary home market is given a green light by lawmakers.

The fact is, it doesn't have to be that way. If each community would take an unbiased look at the impact the publicly traded vacation rental industry is having on the local housing supply, solutions are obtainable.

Implementing a limited number of permits during times of low residential dwellings and/or requiring a six-month owner residency could help alleviate this problem. NOT banning ADU's.

An owner building in his backyard is totally workable if you have an owner-occupancy requirement for the lot, not the ADU. The idea is to limit the corporate investor from swallowing up our residential stock.

The problem is easily demonstrated in this example: In East Missoula some folks were excited to see a tiny home community approved for development, anticipating some more affordable housing options for local residents, only to see the finished product turned into vacation rentals.

It wouldn't be unexpected to see future dense home developments also sold to the highest bidder, an investment buyer looking to operate nightly rentals.

Last year when the Missoula Organization of REALTORS published their annual housing report, they estimated the shortfall of homes needed at just over 500. And later that year, when the city completed a study tallying up vacation rentals, the estimate was at 541 residential units.

Coincident or not, the problem is real and needs more consideration when discussing housing and any proposed policy change.

At a time when the country is concerned about international or domestic cash-rich investors looking to secure property in the US, loosening our laws, taking away the ability of our local elected officials to protect the people they serve seems irresponsible.

Making sure folks who own homes in the state and worry about property tax increases, residents who want to own a home, seniors or others living on fixed incomes, all voices should be considered before implementing new government policy.

Some of the latest legislative bills – SB 268 and HB 337 (to name a few) – will impact communities throughout the state, giving a green light to dense development, taking away local zoning structure, local voices.

In a previous legislative session, SB 300 modified local Homeowners Associations ability to restrict vacation rentals, undermining the authority of an HOA, but more importantly the good faith ground rules in which the neighbor-to-neighbor associations were intended to operate.

In short, I hope Montana legislators re-examine some of their proposed legislation. Ask first, who will this help and who will this legislation hurt. Impact is so important.

I hope the laws passed do not push folks out on the fringes, unable to secure home ownership. How can we assure folks have at least a home in our residential neighborhoods vs. a business wanting two or more residential homes?

And if any legislator voting on vacation rentals owns and profits by developing vacation rentals, or denser zoning residential projects in the state, perhaps they should recuse themselves from voting on residential development bills.

I believe we have Ethical rules in place for that scenario and if we do not, we should.


Missoula County Resident