In the Feb. 24 Beacon Tammi Fisher called me out for sponsoring a bill against the Republican platform. The bill she references will ban inclusionary zoning in Montana and passed the Montana House 65-35 with only two Republicans voting against it. So, let us talk about inclusionary zoning: what is that? Let us boil it down by looking at an example. Let us say a town wants to create low-income housing, great! Let us start by making it easier or less expensive to build or develop property, right? Wrong, inclusionary zoning starts by telling builders that for every six houses you build, you will sell one for $XX (a predetermined price, that the town thinks is affordable). And, by the way, the home being sold for the cheaper price cannot be smaller or have different finishes than the other six you build, forcing the builder to sell it at a loss. Of course, the builder will just eat the loss on that one unit, doing their part for “affordable housing.” Wait, how come the builders are shouldering all the burden here? Really, you think that this one unit won’t be balanced out by raising the cost of the other six units to cover the loss? I see, it just accelerates the climb in housing prices. The town gets to feel good, they did SOMETHING, and yet prices continue to climb. This does not seem like sound economic reasoning and surely does not sound like a Republican solution?
To make the policy worse, when someone buys that house, their “investment” is artificially held down, so that the unit stays affordable for future purchasers. The policy will not let the buyer realize the return on their investment, because the value of their home does not appreciate with the market, like everyone else who owns property. This becomes an infringement on private property rights, yet another solid Republican principle.
Yep, that’s how inclusionary zoning works and that is what I told the City of Whitefish at one of their work sessions about three years ago, right before I cautioned them that this process would probably be outlawed by the state Legislature. Inclusionary zoning has been shown by many studies across the nation not to work. The Legislature needs to step in and stop this process before it really catches on and we have this disaster spreading across all the towns in Montana.
I have explained why inclusionary zoning will only exacerbate the problem of affordable housing, but there are helpful solutions available. I have also sponsored bills that will make the state Department of Environmental Quality more customer friendly. These are the solutions that will lower the cost of homes in the Flathead.
I am all for local control. I sponsored Senate Bill 283, which allows local school boards the flexibility to determine if expulsion is the right punishment for a student who left their hunting rifle in the trunk of their car. Oh, does that sound like a familiar story? It happened right here in Columbia Falls and the lawyer for the school board insisted that they expel that student for a year. Well, that won’t be the case for long, if this bill passes. It gives flexibility to the local school board to make the decision that fits the violation.
Back to the reality check. It looks to me like next time Tammi Fisher wants to run for office, she should be filing as a Democrat.
Carl Glimm is a Republican state senator from Kila.
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