This past week, Montana Senator Jon Tester focused on affordable housing in Montana with a Helena summit meeting and the announcement of millions in federal grants to help with the issue. The meeting brought together government and public representatives to discuss the lack of housing for low income and extremely low income households. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry reported the median cost of a home in the state increased by 25 percent since 2014. Also, a quarter of those renting qualify at "extremely low" income levels. The department estimates a statewide shortage of over 17,000 rental homes that would be affordable to extremely low income renters. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates 1,405 Montanans are homeless on any given day.

Tester is on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and asked the summit attendees to bring potential solutions to Washington. He said the housing problem "has already had detrimental effects on Montana's economy, on the ability of businesses to relocate to Montana, so it's an issue where we have to get everybody's heads together and find out what works and what doesn't, then support the programs that work and get more affordable housing built." To that end, Tester announced $13 million in grant funding to the state to build and repair housing for low income Montanans. Three million dollars will be divided between Missoula, Billings and Great Falls. The bulk of the money will go to the state in the form of Community Development Block Grants, the HOME program and the Emergency Solutions Grants program.

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