Housing in Brief: Montana’s Labor Shortage Is Actually a Housing Shortage

Plus, a new Baltimore law requires just cause for eviction and more.   

Woman standing in front of Montana home with a mountain view

As home prices in parts of Montana have climbed 20% in the last year, many workers are saying they can't afford to take low-paying jobs, even as wages rise. Others, like Kyla Tengdin, shown in this file photo, were able to purchase homes under inclusionary zoning policies, but not all have been so fortunate. (Photo by Greg Scruggs)

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Montana’s Labor Shortage Is Actually a Housing Shortage

Montana plans to distribute part of the $900 million it received in federal coronavirus relief to help with affordable housing, the Associated Press reports.

Housing costs have increased by more than 20% in the last year in some areas in Montana, with workers saying they can’t afford to take low-paying jobs even as wages increase. Next City previously reported on the lack of affordable housing in Bozeman, Montana’s fourth-largest city, which is struggling with an influx of tech workers and others who have decided to make working-from-home permanent.

So far, the commission approved a homeowner assistance fund to help homeowners that are struggling to pay mortgages through loans of up to $25,000. The state also hoped to incentivize a return to work by ending federal unemployment benefits, despite reports indicating that cutting these programs does not encourage Americans to look for jobs.

Nevertheless, Montana has started a new program providing workers with $1,200 if they find and keep a new job for at least a month.

Baltimore Law Requires Landlords to Provide ‘Just Cause’ for Eviction

Baltimore’s new “just cause” law went into effect on Monday, requiring landlords to provide reasoning for not renewing a tenant’s lease, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The bill passed after a series of cases where landlords evicted tenants whose leases had expired without providing a codified reason as to why they did not extend or renew the lease. Since not renewing a lease doesn’t count as an “eviction” (though it still results in a person leaving their home), landlords used the ability to not renew a lease as a loophole around state and federal eviction moratoriums, the Baltimore Sun adds.

Now, Baltimore landlords must allow tenants the chance to renew their leases at least 75 days before it expires. Exceptions to this rule require landlords to provide a “good cause” for not renewing, including: “a ‘substantial’ breach of lease; the landlord wanting to recover the property for a relative as a primary residence; the landlord wanting to permanently remove the property from the rental market; or the landlord needing to conduct repairs that cannot be done in otherwise occupied properties.”

“This new protection is critical for residents who are being evicted when their leases expire in the waning months of the pandemic,” City Council President Nick J. Mosby told the Baltimore Sun.

Penn Research Suggests that Repairing Homes in Low-Income Neighborhoods Reduces Crime and Improves Health

Research by the University of Pennsylvania finds that investing in homes in historically segregated, low-income, Black and Latino communities leads to reduced crime rates and improvements in health.

The study looked at homes repaired by Philadelphia’s Basic Systems Repair Program (BSRP), an initiative that repairs structural damage in homes in low-income areas. Researchers concluded that on blocks where at least one home was repaired through this city-funded program, total crime on that block decreased by nearly 22%. As more houses were repaired, crime fell even further.

“There is a critical need to invest in the housing stock in cities across the U.S, particularly in majority Black neighborhoods that have not received such investment for far too long, if ever,” Vincent Raina PhD, an associate professor of planning and urban economics and the faculty director of the Housing Initiative at Penn said in a statement. “This research shows that even small investments in housing stabilization benefit both those homeowners who live in homes that receive support and the blocks and neighborhoods in which they live through crime reduction.”

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science and journalism in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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Tags: affordable housingphiladelphiajobsbaltimorerenters rightshousing accesslow income communitiesbozeman

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