Tell Ben Davis you want to talk about affordable workforce housing in Whitefish, and he’ll laugh and say he can talk excessively about the subject.
And while it’s not far from the truth, that’s because he is not only knowledgeable about the issues and policies surrounding affordable housing, but he is also passionate about seeking out the solutions that he and others hope will ensure housing is accessible for regular folks wanting to live here.
“It’s important to take care of the community,” Davis said sitting down with the Pilot recently. “We’re setting the groundwork to take care of our community not for two years, but for 20 years. The reason I live here is because of the people that live and work in this town and if we don’t take care of those folks where are we going to be?”
Davis serves as chair of the Whitefish Housing Authority board of directors. He has served for three years with the group that promotes affordable housing opportunities and manages programs assisting residents with housing.
In addition, Davis is chair of the city’s Strategic Housing Steering Committee and has been involved in a number aspects of the process as the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, city and housing authority have been working for the last several years to first study and then seek solutions to a lack of affordable workforce housing in Whitefish.
“I felt it was an area where I have experience and could have an impact with,” he said. “Providing affordable housing is something that we need to do better with in town.”
Davis moved here six years ago from Florida after several previous trips visiting Whitefish. He has taken a background in finance and created a business alongside longtime friend Josh Tullos. Davis serves as the “spreadsheet guy” for Seven Hills Construction, where he manages the design, plan and budgets for the company’s projects as a residential-focused general contractor.
“I like building things,” he said. “I like making something out of nothing. It’s an area where being able to get things done is important, but also being professional and going into it with a plan makes you come out with a nice product.”
Davis along with his wife Brooks McCartney, who is a veterinary technician at Whitefish Animal Hospital, have a passel of pets, and enjoy skiing in the winter and rafting in the summer.
As a young professional in Whitefish, Davis said he hears stories all the time from his peers about their struggles to find housing here.
“Affordable housing means housing for those that work here and make normal wages,” he said. “People who want to live here, but also still want to buy groceries and ski too. Affordable housing is not free housing — it’s for owners working a wide variety job types, but it’s tailored to what we need that the private sector is not providing.”
Davis says he feels an obligation to work with those in the community working to create affordable housing by serving on boards and committees.
“I think the most impactful changes that are going to happen in our community with respect to housing are happening there,” he said. “The housing authority needs to be a very important part of that. I’m very interested in making sure this gets done the right way, so it makes sense that I would get involved in the policy.”
Davis is positive that the measures that are the current main focus of the city, the housing authority and other partners — a potential housing project for the city’s snow lot, a proposed affordable housing project on Edgewood Drive and proposed inclusionary zoning that would require all new development to include some percentage of affordable housing — will assist in meeting the goal of creating affordable workforce housing for Whitefish.
“I think all three of those are pretty exciting,” he said. “The inclusionary zoning is going to have the most impact on our town and we’ve spent a tremendous amount of time trying to get that right.”