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Council adopts refreshed housing committee

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | January 11, 2023 1:00 AM

A City of Whitefish committee focused around housing will soon undergo a refresh and will include members of the public as well as city staff and councilors to bring fresh perspectives and more specific expertise to the group.

The standing Strategic Housing Plan Steering Committee (HSC) sunset on Dec. 31, 2022 and a revised version of the committee with a new name will carry on the work of addressing Whitefish’s housing needs. At their meeting on Jan. 3, Whitefish City Council adopted the recast and renamed the committee as the Whitefish Community Housing Committee.

The HSC was established in 2017 to work on the strategies and the five-year update of the Strategic Housing Plan. In 2022, the Housing Refresh team, which was made up of HSC members along with community members with specific expertise in various aspects of housing, worked to update the Whitefish Area Housing Needs Assessment and the Whitefish Strategic Housing Plan.

The Housing Refresh team created the Whitefish Community Housing Roadmap (Roadmap) which the City Council adopted in November.

One of the core components identified in the Roadmap is a revised composition of the Whitefish

HSC to include members with more housing-specific expertise and a wide range of backgrounds.

“We (the HSC) discussed… what the composition of that committee may look like to help improve our community engagement and expertise of committee members,” said City Manager and HSC member Dana Smith.

The HSC met in December 2022, to discuss and recommend revisions that included a nine-member committee. The members will include one representative from each of the following organizations: Whitefish Housing Authority, Housing Whitefish, Whitefish Chamber of Commerce and the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It will also include four members of the public, one with relevant professional or personal expertise in real estate development and one with a similar level of expertise in fundraising or

financing.

The two other members of the public to serve on the committee will have relevant expertise in housing policy, property management, housing programs, end-users of community housing programs or housing advocacy.

Rounding out the nine-member committee will be the mayor or a member of the Whitefish City Council.

Since these changes are based on recommendations from the Roadmap, which uses the term community housing to describe the kind of housing needed in Whitefish, the HSC proposed that the name of the revamped committee be changed to the Whitefish Community Housing

Committee.

Councilor Steve Qunell questioned the myriad of terminology that has surrounded the housing crisis over the years.

“We’ve called it so many different things that I think the message gets lost,” Qunell said. “We’ve called it affordable housing, we’ve called it workforce housing, we’ve called it inclusionary housing or zoning and now we have another one called community housing.”

Smith said the group of community members, staff and city council members who worked on the update thought the term community housing best described the kind of housing that Whitefish is looking for.

“I think they felt that affordable housing or workforce housing was too limited and that there could be a bigger description of what housing in Whitefish looks like,” Smith said. “I think we’ll be set with this community housing terminology for a very long time.”

The established committee will meet for one year. It will not be a standing committee yet and will be revisited in December 2023.

“There was discussion of making this a standing committee but we decided to see how this committee would work over the next year before making that recommendation,” said Smith.

Please submit a letter of interest to serve on the above committees to the Whitefish City Clerk’s Office at 418 E. Second Street, or mail to P.O. Box 158, Whitefish, MT 59937, or email mhowke@cityofwhitefish.org.

Please include your name, mailing address, physical address, and phone number. Letters of interest will be accepted until the positions are filled. If you have any questions, please call Michelle Howke, City Clerk at 863-2402 or visit the City’s website: www.cityofwhitefish.org

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