As Lack of Affordable Housing Continues to Escalate Across Montana, Tester Works to Find Solutions at Housing Summit

Senator: “We need to find real solutions to a crisis that, left unchecked, could have serious consequences for our entire state’s economy”

As more and more Montana families struggle to find safe, affordable housing, U.S. Senator Jon Tester hosted an Affordable Housing Summit in Helena today aimed at garnering ideas and suggestions from stakeholders and constituents on how to address the growing crisis.

Tester—who is a senior member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee—plays a key role in drafting legislation that would impact federal policy on housing. After hearing from constituents about the shortage of safe, affordable housing in the state, he called this summit to gather potential solutions to the crisis from the Montanans who have boots on the ground, and bring those ideas back to Washington.

“My parents always said I had two ears and one mouth and should act accordingly,” said Tester. “So I will be relying on you to tell me what is going right, and what we need to be doing differently to solve this problem once and for all…I want to know what is really happening so I can take your ideas back with me to Washington and do something about it.”

According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, the median cost of a home in Montana has increased by 25 percent since 2014, and, on average, housing costs make up 22 percent of household expenses. In Montana, 24 percent of renter households qualify as extremely low income, and there is currently a shortage of approximately 17,420 rental homes affordable and available for extremely low income renters.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates that 1,405 Montanans experience homelessness on any given day, and of them, 134 are families, 198 are veterans, 119 are unaccompanied young adults, and 200 are individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

“If you’re in a town of more than 5,000 people, you’re going to have a housing problem. And the truth is, if you have less than 5,000 you probably have a housing problem too,” Tester said. “It already has had detrimental effects on Montana’s economy, on the ability of businesses to relocate to Montana, so it’s an issue where we have to get everybody’s heads together and find out what works and what doesn’t, then support the programs that work and get more affordable housing built.”

Tester is a strong advocate for expanding affordable housing opportunities in Montana. Through his role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he played a key role in negotiating a bipartisan budget deal that made substantial investments into affordable housing initiatives including the HOME and Community Development Block Grant programs. Over the last year he helped secure more than $4 million for Public Housing Authorities across Montana and more than $26 million for affordable housing in Indian Country.