Whitefish introduces affordable housing program

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The city of Whitefish is rolling out its Legacy Home program during an open house this month designed to answer questions about the planned affordable housing program.

The open house is March 14 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at City Hall to provide information about efforts to create affordable housing for people working in Whitefish.

The meeting, the city says, is designed for those who want to learn more about plans for affordable housing in the city or those who want to find out if they will be eligible to rent or buy a home as part of the program.

“The city of Whitefish is serious about implementing the recommendations in the 2017 Strategic Housing Plan,” Mayor John Muhlfeld said. “We are actively working on a number of initiatives and have developed the Legacy Homes Program with the goal of creating permanently affordable workforce housing in the city of Whitefish.”

City staff, the Whitefish Housing Authority, and members of the Strategic Housing Plan Steering Committee will be on hand to provide information and answer questions. Information will be provided about proposed new regulations that would require affordable homes be included in most new residential developments, what types of homes will be offered with the Legacy Homes Program, where they might be located, when they will be available, what they could look like, who will be able to buy and rent, and information for getting qualified to buy or rent.

There will also be the chance to learn about the recently funded and approved Alpenglow Apartments project on Edgewood Drive, and concepts and status of the city’s planned housing development for its snow lot.

The proposed regulations to implement the Legacy Homes Program are set to go before the Whitefish Planning Board on Tuesday, March 19 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

At the center of the Legacy Homes Program, is a mandatory inclusionary zoning for the city. If implemented, inclusionary zoning regulations would require that 20 percent of all new development be set aside for affordable housing.

The program would apply to residential conditional use permits, planned unit developments and subdivisions. Residential units allowed by right would be exempt.

The goal is to create housing for those with incomes between 60 and 120 percent of area median income.

The area median income for Flathead County for a two-person household is $53,4000. This is also referred to as 100 percent area median income.

The industry standard for affordable housing is that it should not be more than 30 percent of the owner or renter’s annual income.

In exchange for providing deed-restricted units, developers would be able to take advantage of a list of incentives designed to offset providing the housing.

A housing needs study conducted in 2016 followed by the strategic housing plan completed the next year showed that roughly 900 residential units are needed to accommodate employee households through 2020 in Whitefish.

Question about the upcoming open house may be directed to Adam Hammatt, City Manager, via email at ahammatt@cityofwhitefish.org, by calling 863-2400, or by stopping by City Hall during business hours.

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