Governors Share Bipartisan Solutions to Housing Shortage

Washington, DC – During the annual Winter Meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA), Governors from a diverse array of states and territories participated in a roundtable discussion on housing availability and affordability.

The session was moderated by NGA Vice Chair Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who described high housing costs as “the No. 1 issue in my state and your states.” Governor Polis was joined by Charlie Anderson, executive vice president for Infrastructure at Arnold Ventures, who briefed Governors on national housing trends.

Delaware Governor John Carney, Hawai`i Governor Josh Green, Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee, NGA Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox, and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon shared updates on policies their administrations are pursuing to ease housing shortages and address homelessness.  

Highlights of the conversation include:

“We recognized early on that this is the No. 1 issue facing working families,” said Montana Governor Greg Gianforte. “I formed a Governor’s Task Force on Housing that was a really broad, bipartisan [cross-section, including] folks from the building industry, realtors, county commissioners, city officials, state officials, non-profit leaders from places like Habitat for Humanity. We got everybody at the table. In one year, we’ve seen average rental prices come down 20% in our largest communities. Average vacancy rates for apartments have gone from just over 1% — which is not a healthy market – to over 6%… My advice is that every time I got pushback from the left or right in our legislature, I would say ‘Do we want our nurses, teachers and police officers to live in the community where they work? And will this measure allow that to happen?’ In the end, that commonsense logic won the day.”

“I’m glad we’re having this plenary on housing,” stated Oregon Governor Tina Kotek. “It is the most bipartisan issue facing our states right now. We all need to figure this out, and I think Governors have to lead the way. I spent my first year in office visiting every county in Oregon. There’s an issue in every place… Oregon needs to produce over 440,000 housing units in the next 20 years to keep pace with demand as well as make up for the lack of supply. I set a new standard last year with an emergency order saying we are going to build 36,000 units a year for the next decade… Under another emergency order, I established a Housing Production Advisory Council [which issued 59 recommendations including] everything from financing to construction and workforce to model codes, permitting and land-use supply… The bottom line for me is, when people say ‘what do you have to do?’ – you have to do all of it. All of it.”

“This is the benefit of the National Governors Association; we should be stealing ideas from each other on things that work,” NGA Chair Utah Governor Cox stated. “I had an epiphany a few months ago: To cut through the NIMBYism, I needed something that would resonate with the people. We’re doing density, we’re building more apartment buildings – we’re doing all of this. But the one thing we were not building anymore in almost all of our states are single-family, detached, owner-occupied starter homes. I’m talking about homes that are 1000 – 1400 square feet. What I found is that idea of a starter home, the American Dream, home ownership was something that resonated with everyone and cut through the clutter… [Our economists said] we need to build 35,000 starter homes in the next five years. That became my message, my mandate. I call them Utah First Homes. That resonates with people. It’s something they can believe in and buy in.”

“We recognize that housing is our greatest challenge – just like seemingly every other state,” stated Hawai`i Governor Josh Green. “In our state, we have 89,000 short-term rentals, of which only 15,000 are legal… We’re going to have to work on this; this is a huge piece of the solution. For us, a short-term rental brings in a 400% return as compared to regular rentals. How do you compete with that? If I could, tomorrow, put 40,000 or 50,000 of these units back – with a nice runway, with some tax breaks – I really wouldn’t have a housing crisis. But on Maui, we tried everything. We don’t want to disrupt people’s business lives. But we are now out of balance. There is a fundamental imbalance in America, and we are going to have to bring it back in some way – whether it’s [addressing] short-term rentals, affordable loans, or projects [funded by] public dollars.”

Click here to learn what Governors are saying about housing policies in their State of the State addresses, and view full video for the housing session here.