Guest Column

Montanans are Paying the Price

I feel like our state is being sold out from under us to the highest bidders

By Jana Gorton

Gov. Greg Gianforte says our state is an “easy product to sell,” but Montanans are paying the price. Higher property taxes and affordable housing shortages are widespread, not to mention the rapid rise in homelessness across our state.

I guess he, and the people he’s selling our state to, have a different take on the “our way of life” phrase he keeps reiterating. I’ve had some of the real life Montana experiences since he and his super-majority have been at the helm. My husband is a third generation Montanan. He worked in the construction business most of his life, until he became wheel-chair bound from multiple sclerosis at about age 55. I’ve lived here for over 40 years, most of which I spent cleaning homes and businesses in our community. We lived in a mobile home park for 34 years, until our landlord sold the park to new owners who gave us and all of our neighbors two months to move our mobile homes and all of our belongings. To our dismay, there were zero openings for mobile homes, or even affordable homes or apartments to rent. Thankfully our landlords gave us another few months, but some still had to leave our community.  

In my search for an affordable place to live I asked Community Action Partnership if they could help. They told me there had been an epidemic of people getting evicted because the landlords were selling or turning units into Airbnb’s. One of our neighbors, a senior citizen who retired from our Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, and his wife, also a senior, who retired after working over 20 years at Kalispell Regional Hospital, had to move across the state. He died during the move. Another family in our park home-schooled their three children. He was a manager of a Kalispell business. They had to move out of state. Another senior citizen neighbor owned his own construction business. He had to move into his camper after barely finding one last spot to rent, while leaving behind some of his equipment. Another neighbor, who had just moved in two years before and spent her own hard-earned money on many truck-loads of fill dirt to level her rented spot, had to move her mobile home again while battling cancer. Last I heard from her son, they had to leave the state as well.  

These are only a few of the many stories I’ve lived, seen or heard about, just in our community. All of those who couldn’t sell or afford to move their mobile homes had to leave them, only to have them excavated into dump trucks. All of the families were hard working, tax paying Montanans who raised their children here. I’ve watched videos of this happening in third world countries, but never in Montana.

When I hear that impact fees were lowered for real estate developers, but absolutely nothing done by our Legislature or governor to combat foreseen rising property tax rates, I fear there will be many more evictions to come. Although small property tax rebates were given to some property owners, there were no rebates for rental properties, which puts renters at even higher risk of being evicted because of rising rents. I feel like our state is being sold out from under us to the highest bidders.

It’s obvious we need a change in leadership. We need a governor and representatives who actually care about us, share our concerns and will work on behalf of all Montanans. 

Jana Gorton lives in Kalispell.