Zachary Krumm, City Commission

Zachary Krumm is running for an open seat on the Bozeman City Commission against two other candidates.

A city commission candidate who wants to create public housing and a government-owned bank said Bozeman’s prosperity has left too many people behind.

Zach Krumm, 30, called himself the odd man out in Bozeman’s elections because he’s a renter who can’t afford to buy a home. He said Bozeman’s politics has a representation problem “where the poor and the struggling and the young” are swept under the rug.

“I’m here to bring a different voice to the city commission, a voice that’s not represented,” Krumm said during a recent candidate forum. “My family lives on $3,000 a month. We understand what poverty is. We’ve lived it.”

Krumm and his wife, originally from Billings, moved to Bozeman roughly five years ago. He arrived to town without a plan other than the goal to work in regenerative agriculture. That never happened.

“We stayed because Bozeman is a place of possibility,” Krumm said.

Krumm said his main job is running Tenants United — an organization with the goal to promote permanent and cheap housing for all — and being a dad to a two-year-old son.

He said his focus remains on the land.

“I see everything as about the land and our relationship to it,” Krumm said. “Housing is about land, who gets it and who gets to use it and what that looks like. It’s very much a political thing and very much so environmental.”

Krumm said his first move to respond to Bozeman’s housing shortage would be to advocate for permanent public housing. He said that starts with building apartments for people who are homeless.

He said that project would likely take federal grant dollars and a ballot initiative approved by voters.

He said the city could save money on that project and future efforts by creating a public bank — another potential ballot issue to ask voters to pay for. He said that bank would act as a nonprofit and offer expensive projects lower interest rates.

He said while both ideas could mean more taxes upfront, the projects would pay back their cost and then some over time.

Krumm said a Bozeman bank would offer private loans and student loans and work with people private banks would turn down for the public benefit. He used North Dakota’s government-owned bank as an example of prioritizing public access over profit.

Krumm said he’s also interested in a program that offers homeowners the chance to refinance their house for a lower rate in exchange if they sell their home below market prices. He said that would create a pool of affordable homes in Bozeman’s existing neighborhoods.

A city-owned bank run by a third party would likely need Montana lawmakers’ approval.

It’s not the only campaign idea Krumm has that would need a state law change. That includes Krumm’s call for a five-year rent freeze in Bozeman.

Krumm said while the sitting commission’s legislative focus is on getting cities the chance to pass a local option sales tax, he wants to push lawmakers to restore more power to local governments across the board.

Krumm said as far as what’s possible now, he wants to create a top-level city department to track well-being for people — gender equality, overall health and access to locally-grown food — as well as the area’s living environment. He said the town’s impact to the land has to be a part of city planning.

Krumm said he would work with organizations like Montana State University to see what it could cost for the town to rely on renewable energy. He set a goal for Bozeman to go “energy independent” by 2029.

Krumm said his ideas are possible.

“Three people on a Monday night who decide it’s what they want and don’t change their mind is how it happens,” Krumm said, referencing the majority needed in Bozeman City Hall to make policy decisions.

There are two seats open on the Bozeman City Commission. Krumm is one of three people vying for the title of commissioner while two candidates compete to be Bozeman’s next deputy mayor.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

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