Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Affordable housing should be prioritized

| July 21, 2021 1:00 AM

During a recent Whitefish City Council meeting, a number of concerned locals commented to the Council that affordable housing should be the No.1 priority for the approximately $2 million of the city’s Covid relief funds. I echo this sentiment. This funding presents a new opportunity to ensure that many people who live and work in this community can afford to keep a roof over their heads.

Lack of affordable housing is plaguing many communities across the mountain west. While some have had foresight in addressing the issue (Jackson, Wyoming, has a program to ensure housing of seasonal employees of the city), others have been caught on their heels (Ketchum, Idaho’s mayor recently proposed allowing a tent city in a park for local workers). I hope Whitefish chooses to be proactive, even as the time for that is getting late.

The last legislative session showed us that our legislators and governor will not be riding in to help solve the problem, as they actually overturned prior bipartisan local efforts to find solutions. That is not to say there is no path forward, but that it clearly is up to those of us here in the community to again take action. I ask the City Council to immediately form a committee of local citizens to consider how to best use these Covid funds to adequately address this housing problem before many local workers move elsewhere and those who stay find themselves looking at a tent city in Depot Park as the only option.

Bo Downen, Whitefish