Legislative candidates from Rapid City and the area were asked Monday evening what they would do to promote growth and affordability in the South Dakota housing industry.
Most said they would try to stay out of the way and see to it that state government did the same.
District 34 Rep. David Lust, a Rapid City lawyer and leader of the Republican caucus in the South Dakota House, said his frequent legal work with home builders typically identifies demand for homes and the quality of the work force as the top problems.
But they aren't issues that legislators can often solve, Lust said during a candidate forum sponsored by the Black Hills Home Builders Association, the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce and the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.
"It's our job to create an environment where those problems can be solved — not by us, but by all of you," Lust said before an audience of about 50 people as well as 13 other candidates at the Surbeck Center ballroom at Mines.
Other candidates echoed the idea that government should not be an impediment by over-regulating industry and complicating business. That answered both the home builder's question and another by the Rapid City Chamber asking why candidates should get the votes of the business community.
"We need to be business-friendly and not put in government regulations that would hinder the home-building industry," said first-term Republican Rep. Dan Dryden of District 34.
District 34 Democratic House candidate John Willman said providing good jobs is the best way to make sure the housing industry thrives. "If they're not making enough money to buy homes, they're not going to do it," he said.
The state Legislature must promote a tax structure that encourages that economic cycle, Willman said.
Robin Page, a Democratic candidate for the House in District 33, focused on affordability in the housing market, saying she had studied Rapid City and noted a shortage in what is affordable to lower-income people.
"What we discovered is we have a serious, serious affordable-housing shortage here in Rapid City," she said.
Page also said the bulk of the assistance for construction of low-income housing has been going East River.
"We need to get our share of that money back over here," she said. "It's a very important thing."
Former educator Jackie Swanson, a Democratic House candidate from District 32, drifted off the topic of the questions long enough to criticize one of her Republican opponents. Swanson referred to questions about the dispute over whether it was proper for District 32 Republican Rep. Brian Gosch to notarize the name of a petition carrier on Gosch's own nominating petitions.
Swanson argues that Gosch got special treatment by Republican Secretary of State Jason Gant.
"I know that had I signed my own petitions, I would not be standing here in front of you."
Gosch didn't respond to Swanson in his time at the microphone a few minutes later, but District 32 Rep. Kristin Conzet did. First, she agreed with others who said fewer regulations make for better business and prosperous home building.
Conzet also said Swanson had "very unprofessionally" brought up the petition issue even though it wasn't on the agenda for the forum. And she told the audience there was no need for change.
"You have sent the right people to Pierre," she said.