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By Keila Szpaller, Daily Montanan

In Bozeman, people who have jobs are living in RVs and trying to keep them warm in winter because houses cost too much, said Henry Kriegel.

“It greatly saddened me to realize that in my own hometown, people are living out of RVs,” said Kriegel, with Americans for Prosperity.

In Billings, a local study showed workers in four out of five of the top occupations don’t earn enough to afford a median home there, according to the Billings Chamber of Commerce.

The cost of land contributes to the cost of a home — and housing costs are soaring in many parts of Montana.

This week, the House Local Government Committee heard a bill that would, in the words of the sponsor, “put sideboards on excessive minimum lot size regulations” as one way to allow the free market to help housing supply.

Kriegel and the Billings Chamber were among the many supporters of House Bill 337. Other proponents included a mix of free market groups, an affordable housing nonprofit, and the Montana Environmental Information Center.

Ann Schwend, with the sustainable communities program of the Montana Environmental Information Center, said she believes in local control, and she wasn’t sure if she would be a supporter at first.

However, she said if some communities aren’t making the same accommodation as another, they’ll push people into surrounding areas — and that becomes a statewide problem.

Zoning reform is necessary, she said, but so are creative solutions.

“Montana has been discovered, and we have a lot of people that live here,” she said. “We need to find ways to accommodate more people in less space.”


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