The Montana Legislature's Senate Local Government Committee will hear a pro-housing bill on Tuesday, sponsored by Republican State Senator Daniel Zolnikov of Billings.

KGVO News spoke with Zolnikov on Monday afternoon and said the bill would encourage the building of homes and apartments for average Montanans.

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“This is a bill that allows developers to build in commercial areas,” began Zolnikov. “There are arguments that developers can already do this. But what happens is that some local governments have ways to get around the current spirit of the law so they can render technically legal developments unbuildable.”

Zolnoikov said some larger city governments have ways to put a ‘poison pill’ in housing regulations that discourage the development of smaller apartments and subdivisions that are more affordable for the average Montana family.

“What this does is that it basically prevents the ‘poison pills’ that happen at local government,” he said. “Another way to look at it is if you're a developer, you can build huge apartments or very nice million dollar homes or very expensive homes, where you know you're going to get a high return on investment. But these developments can have much tighter margins. If it's high risk, developers just take a walk, so we're trying to open up the doors to ensure that more affordable developments can happen in commercial areas.”

Zolnikov Described 'the Crux of the Issue'

Zolnikov laid out what he called ‘the crux of the issue’ with Senate Bill 245.

“Not everybody can afford to live in that perfect neighborhood, and I think that's the crux of the issue,” he said. “Cities can be pretty oppositional to some of these ideas, but it's like, ‘Hey, how about those other people moving in from small towns in Montana to urban areas? How about those folks? How about people who are younger and starting out in their careers? Those don't fit all the growth goals of cities, because that's not always the market people consider. So we're trying to open doors for those people.”

Click here to read Senate Bill 245.

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