Whitefish takes steps to add housing

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The need for affordable housing in Whitefish is nothing new. Through the years the workforce-housing situation in the resort community has gone from bad to worse to critical — that’s old news.

What’s new and exciting are a couple of affordable-housing projects that are poised to finally offer some relief for families who want to live and work in Whitefish.

The developer of Alta Views townhomes off JP Road has approval to develop at 166-lot subdivision, and intends to offer about 80 percent of the two-bedroom, two-garage townhomes for $289,000. Some may argue that price seems high to be considered affordable, but when one considers that many small, older residential homes in Whitefish are selling for $300,000 and up, it seems reasonable. Construction of the Alta Views project will begin in May, with 40 to 50 units done by this fall.

Another housing project that still needs city approval is the proposed 58-lot Trail View subdivision on Monegan Road. That developer promises 100 percent of the homes will be in the affordable range. He’s asking for a planned-unit development overlay that will allow more density to cluster homes and provide more open space.

The city of Whitefish also is jumping into the affordable-housing arena. The City Council this month approved a zone change that sets the stage for future high-density housing on the city’s 1.64-acre snow storage lot near the train depot.

The Whitefish Chamber of Commerce and city leaders worked together on a strategic housing plan that was completed last fall. It won’t solve the city’s affordable housing woes, but it does offer a road map for creating opportunities to develop affordable housing. The housing consultant hired to complete the strategic plan pointed out that affordable housing is not synonymous with low-income housing for ski towns. She acknowledged it’s going to take a combination of many strategies to come up with the more than 600 affordable homes that are immediately needed in Whitefish.

The immediate challenge for Whitefish is to work with developers to find ways to turn its housing needs into tangible dwellings that the workforce can afford.

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