Montana Could Overhaul Land Use Laws

State legislators want to make comprehensive changes to land use and zoning laws to alleviate a growing housing shortage in the state’s urban areas.

1 minute read

February 28, 2023, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of Montana state capitol building in Helena, Montana

Mihai_Andritoiu / Montana state capitol, Helena

A proposed Montana state bill, SB 382, would radically change the decision-making process for development in the state, reports Eric Dietrich for the Montana Free Press. “Senate Bill 382 would require additional planning by local governments, rework how and when residents can participate in planning decisions and, supporters say, make it easier to build the housing necessary to accommodate rapid population growth.”

Written in part by the executive director of the Montana League of Cities and Towns, the bill aims to simplify the state’s complex land use code, streamline permitting processes, and create more ‘proactive planning.’ Like other states, Montana is experiencing a rise in housing costs and growing demand that the largely rural state’s current housing supply doesn’t meet. “The 48-page SB 382 would require city and county governments in the state’s most-populous counties to expand their proactive planning efforts, producing forward-looking land use plans that inventory existing housing, analyze projected population growth and determine specifically where they’ll allow the construction of enough homes to house future residents.”

While local governments have opposed ‘one-off’ proposals to adjust zoning regulations, the new bill is touted as “a comprehensive alternative that will promote housing construction while maintaining local control of land use decisions.”

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