Zone change approved for planned housing project

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The Whitefish Housing Authority, in partnership with the nonprofit Homeword, is looking to develop an affordable housing project on Edgewood Place on what was previously a mobile home park. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

Whitefish City Council last week approved a zone change related to a proposed affordable housing project on Edgewood Place.

About 2 acres on Edgewood Place near Wisconsin will be rezoned to high density multi-family residential. The property was once a mobile home park, but is now largely vacant except for a few accessory buildings.

The property is owned by Alan and Lisa Stinson who have agreed to sell the property to the Whitefish Housing Authority, which is working with the Missoula nonprofit Homeword to develop the site with an affordable housing project.

Heather McMilin, with Homeword, said the project will likely return seeking a planned unit development overlay to eventually develop the property with what’s planned to be a 38-unit housing complex. Homeword and the housing authority are applying for federal tax credits to assist in funding the project.

A few residents from the City Beach neighborhood near the project have expressed concerns about developing housing on the site and the impact it could have on traffic in the area.

McMilin said based upon those concerns Homeword has begun a traffic study for the project.

“We heard the concerns about traffic and will know there will be an impact,” she said. “We wanted to start that study before we do a PUD. We want to start the ball rolling.”

Homeword and the housing authority are currently in the process of applying for federal tax credits with the Montana Board of Housing to develop the project. The low-income housing tax credit is a federal income tax credit for owners of rental housing that meets certain low-income occupancy and rent limitation requirements.

The Board of Housing is expected to make a decision in November on which projects in the state will receive the tax credits. The housing authority is looking at a $7 million to $8 million project and hoping to obtain about $6 million in tax credit.

McMilin said having as complete a project as possible before going before the state Board of Housing will help the project receive the tax credits.

“We’re being aggressive with this for a reason,” she said. “We want this to be shovel-ready.”

Homeword has said the goal is to create a housing complex that would include affordable one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Rent on the housing units is expected to be between $400 and $890.

City Council has pledged city funds up to $150,000 for the purchase of property.

The Wisconsin Avenue corridor plan designates the land use on the property for high density multi-family residential.

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