BOZEMAN — We hear about issues surrounding affordable housing every day in the Gallatin Valley. But it’s not every day the housing crisis in Bozeman takes the national stage.
Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus was one of a handful of local leaders from across the country that testified Tuesday morning in front of the Senate Banking Committee on infrastructure needs facing the country.
“There’s no such thing as a first-time home buyer because quite frankly the cost of homes is so damn high,” said Montana’s Senior Senator Jon Tester describing the housing crisis in Bozeman before introducing Mayor Andrus.
Andrus told the committee fast-growing communities like Bozeman needs investment in infrastructures like water and sewer, public transit, and faster broadband.
“But at the end of every sewer line, bus route and broadband fiber conduit is a home, a long-term hard capital asset. High-quality infrastructure must include affordable housing. Period,” said Mayor Andrus during the committee.
“The idea really is to think about housing as infrastructure and to put some federal dollars into the American Jobs Plan as infrastructure,” the Mayor added in a follow-up conversation with MTN News after the committee hearing.
Mayors from Akron, Ohio and Tempe, Arizona made similar calls for housing to be considered into an infrastructure plan, while a county commissioner from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania urged lawmakers to reconsider how the federal government goes about addressing infrastructure needs.
“This housing crisis is not just something we’re experiencing here, but they’re experiencing it everywhere from Akron, Ohio to Tempe, Arizona,” said Mayor Andrus.
“The affordable housing crisis is a crisis but every community experiences it a little bit differently.”
Mayor Andrus and other local leaders fielded questions from Senators on the committee.
When Senator Tester asked what the federal government could do to help with the housing crisis in Bozeman, Mayor Andrus responded, saying federal programs need to look beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach and allow for more flexibility through existing programs.
“We’re not a large city, we’re not considered rural, so access to those dollars is difficult to us,” said Andrus during the committee hearing.
While discussions in Washington about infrastructure spending continue, Senator Tester said he’s opposed to wasteful spending, but housing and transit need to be part of the infrastructure conversation moving forward.
“The fact of the matter is we need to step up,” said Senator Tester.
“We need to do something that’s meaningful, and housing and transit is the right way to do it and we need to have a debate.”