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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Gianforte looks to simplify construction permitting process

New construction in Missoula Slant Street neighborhood. Missoula, MT. June 15, 2021.
Megan Johnson
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New construction in Missoula Slant Street neighborhood. Missoula, MT. June 15, 2021.

Gov. Greg Gianforte says he’s trying to streamline construction permitting as homebuilders try to keep pace with housing demand.

Gianforte said in a news release he and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality worked with the Montana League of Cities and Towns on a simpler construction permitting process. They created a template contract to have city governments review public water supply plans for building projects.

Gianforte says this will streamline construction of affordable homes, which the governor has been focused on since creating a housing task force last month.

At the task force’s initial meeting in July, some developers voiced concern about a backlog of pending permits at the department of environmental quality they say is holding up construction.

Eugene Graf owns E.G. Construction in Bozeman and says he’s been hearing lots of frustration about the delay in processing.

“The governor’s intent was to be very customer-friendly and to have a predictable timeline on applications. If we’re working towards that, that’s understandable, I can keep these guys at bay, but at some point, they’re not gonna.”

Director of the environmental quality department, Chris Dorrington, acknowledged the backlog and said he’s created an incident management team and added 500 hours of overtime for staff to address the problem. He said the department needs more staff, but that state pay is not competitive with the private sector.

“We are not meeting statutory deadlines. We have more work and less people. We have incredible turnover.”

According to data from Pew, Montana’s population grew 10% over the last decade, but available homes grew by only 7%.

Shaylee is Montana Public Radio's Capitol reporter. She previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and covered the 2019 legislative session for the University of Montana's Legislative News Service.