News & Features

Commerce Department Celebrates Groundbreaking of 38 New Affordable Homes in Whitefish

Alpenglow Apartments marks first affordable multifamily rental property since 2004

For the first time in 15 years, construction has begun on an affordable multifamily apartment complex in Whitefish.

At a recent groundbreaking at the project’s location on Edgewood Place, members of the Montana Department of Commerce joined local residents, community leaders and city staff to celebrate the future of the Alpenglow Apartments, which will bring 38 new affordable rental homes to families and individuals in Whitefish, helping the community build its inventory of affordable housing and emerge from what’s been termed a “housing crisis.”

“To support a growing economy and our vibrant communities, Montanans need an affordable place to live,” Bruce Brensdal, Montana Housing Division Administrator, said at the Aug. 27 event. “That’s why we are here to celebrate Alpenglow, a place that will provide local workers and their families an affordable home for many years to come.”

The Alpenglow Apartments will provide affordable rent for at least 46 years to residents earning 60 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI). In Whitefish, 60 percent of AMI is $33,420 for a two-person household.

Homeword, a Missoula nonprofit housing developer and the Whitefish Housing Authority partnered to put the estimated $8.7 million deal together, primarily using $6.75 million of federal Housing Credits allocated last year by the Department of Commerce’s Montana Board of Housing, as well as nearly $1.5 million from Commerce’s HOME Investment Partnerships and Housing Trust Fund programs.

Federal housing credits allow developers to borrow less money for construction and pass those savings along to families and individuals through lower rent. Federal tax credits fund the construction or rehabilitation of approximately 220 rental homes in Montana each year. Over the past five years, they have created an annual average of approximately 608 jobs, $27.3 million in local wages and more than $2.4 million in new taxes and revenues for local governments.

The land for Alpenglow was acquired by the city of Whitefish from a seller who provided a discount on the purchase. The land was purchased for these homes at nearly half of market value.

According to the 2016 Whitefish Area Workforce Housing Needs Assessment, middle-income, working-class Whitefish residents have limited options when it comes to finding comfortable, cost-effective living arrangements, a problem that is displacing locals and forcing them to live outside their chosen community — 56 percent of Whitefish’s workforce lives in neighboring communities, 34 percent of whom would prefer to live in Whitefish.

With only 76 affordable rental homes at no vacancy, the construction of Alpenglow will increase the number of affordable rental homes in Whitefish by 50 percent, according to the Whitefish Housing Authority.

The study also showed that seasonal workers face a scarce rental inventory, while homeownership remains out of reach for young professionals looking to enter an outsized market that towers above the average household income.

The tax credits mark the first time in 16 years that Whitefish has been on the receiving end of the Montana Board of Housing, which in 2002 awarded funds for a 10-unit family property.

In January 2016, the Whitefish Housing Authority narrowly missed out on $6.7 million in tax credits to build a 36-unit affordable housing complex on U.S. Highway 93 South, just north of Les Schwab Tires.

As executive director Lori Collins put it at the time, losing out on the credits made for a “very sad day,” but was testament to affordable housing as a statewide problem that demands solutions.

Alpenglow will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom units available for rent for households earning up to 60 percent of AMI. The rental units will be available in December of 2020.

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