Director of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Dr. Patrick Barkey appeared on the KGVO Talk Back program on Thursday to talk about the issues of affordable housing and property taxes.

Barkey said the seemingly insatiable demand for housing simply can’t last forever, even in Missoula.

“Part of it is to be quite honest with you, and this doesn't get a lot of ink, is that the demand is likely to be temporary,” said Dr. Barkey. “When I say that I don't mean that people tomorrow aren't going to need housing, but what I mean is that the froth in the market, the desperation to buy a house now before they go up higher, housing as an investment, housing speculation, or gee, I'd like to move to Montana and I'll just buy a house without seeing it, all that sort of thing that is not going to continue forever.”

Barkey said that over regulation of housing can often by itself drive up prices.

“Multi-family housing in single family neighborhoods for example, or housing built with no parking requirements are one of many presumably well meaning regulations that effectively reduce the supply of housing because they make it super expensive to build,” he said.”

Barkey also addressed a listener’s question about workers disappearing from the marketplace.

“You had a lot of people that just didn't come back because they were considering other alternatives,” he said. “Some of those alternatives were funded by the government, of course, but the COVID was a benefactor in that as well. So we're not surprised there are people sitting on the sidelines. But, what was surprising is how quick demand came back. And that's what really exposed this kind of shortage.”

Barkey then answered a question about increasing property taxes, gently chiding taxpayers and their complaints.

“I think a lot of what is wrong with tax policy is the endless search for someone else to pay our tax bill,” he said. “We see this all the time. We see this for example, with people that propose a very specific sales tax, it's, well let's tax this and let's tax that because obviously people do those things and they don't vote and we don't care about them, or some kind of argument like that. I think this is a misnomer. I think taxes exist to support the services of government. Local people have a say and not only just what the services are, but how much they're taxed. Yes, you do have a say.”

Barkey finished that thought.

“You may be in the minority and you're out voted, but you do have a say,” he said. “I think we have to look at taxes a little bit more rationally and stop looking for other people to pay taxes and not us. I realized that's a that's a little heavy hitting and I feel often the same way you do, but ultimately as a society that's what we need to do.”

Barkey also promoted the upcoming 47th annual Economic Outlook Seminar coming up from January through March, 2022, with the theme ‘Where Housing is Headed’.

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