“Have you ever heard of Bozeman, Montana?” Tester Presses Experts for Solutions to Montana Housing Shortages
Senator questioned experts on role of Community Development Financial Institutions in expanding housing opportunities
As part of his continued focus on addressing affordable housing shortages across Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester questioned community development experts during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on potential solutions to expand housing opportunities in high growth areas.
Tester began his questioning by speaking about his recent stop in Bozeman where he spoke directly with businesses about how housing shortages are impacting the community: “Have you ever heard of Bozeman, Montana? … I was just in Bozeman on Friday and I just visited with a number of businesses there. It’s one of the highest growth areas in the country and housing there reflects that. Housing prices are through the roof, rental prices are through the roof. It’s created a lot of problems: homeless population, it’s also created an affordability issue for people. That combined with higher interest rates, turnover in properties isn’t happening because nobody wants to give up their 3% loan and I don’t blame them.”
Tester then asked the experts to outline how Community Development Financial Institutions could play a role in increasing housing in high growth areas like Bozeman and communities across Montana: “The question for you is, in a high growth area – it could be Bozeman, it could be somewhere else – but in a high growth area like that, can [Community Development Financial Institutions] play a role in housing, whether it’s rental housing or ownership housing, and what is that role?”
Additionally, Tester specifically asked experts for guidance on how local businesses and community institutions can play a role in addressing housing shortages: “How does the community get involved… How do you do it so that I could tell those businesses that I talked to look, here’s who you need to get a hold of, this is how you need to start working on supply from this angle?”
Tester has been Montana’s leading champion for rural housing accessibility. Last month, Tester introduced his bipartisan Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023 – legislation which would improve federal rural housing programs and strengthen the supply of affordable housing across Montana.
In April, Tester pressed national housing experts on solutions to the affordable housing crisis in rural America during a Senate Banking Committee hearing.
Last December, Tester secured significant wins for housing affordability in the 2023 government funding package, including $85 million for a new “Yes in My Back Yard” grant program, $225 million for manufactured housing preservation and revitalization, $170 million for Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (NeighborWorks), and $12.5 million for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP). That same month, he secured more than $637,000 for housing accessibility in Helena through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance Grant Program.
And in April of 2021, Tester secured more than $15 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support affordable housing construction, purchasing, and rehabilitation for low- and very low income- families. Tester was the only member of the Montana delegation to vote in support of this funding.