Whitefish Tourism Board Increases Funding for Housing Programs

Housing Whitefish is now expected to receive up to $150,000 annually from Explore Whitefish

By Mike Kordenbrock
Whitefish and Big Mountain on June 30, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The board of Whitefish’s tourism management organization has decided to double the amount of funding it allocates for housing programs undertaken by the nonprofit Housing Whitefish, according to a press release issued Oct. 19 by Explore Whitefish, which described the decision as one the board was unanimous in approving.

 Housing Whitefish, a nonprofit that works with the Whitefish Housing Authority, is now expected to receive up to $150,000 annually from Explore Whitefish, with the increased funding coming from the Community Sustainability Fund (CSF), which Explore Whitefish collects through a 1% voluntary fee from participating restaurants, hotels, and transportation companies.

In the press release, Housing Whitefish Executive Director Daniel Sidder said, “These funds will allow us to grow our capacity and help meet our fundraising targets to launch our Workforce Assistance Fund and advance our first building project.” That first building project is the second phase of the Alpenglow Apartments at Edgewood Place, which will involve 18 units of income-restricted apartments.

Two years ago, Explore Whitefish had allocated $75,000 from the CSF to finance Housing Whitefish’s grant writing services for its first year. Of the recent decision to increase its funding for Housing Whitefish, Explore Whitefish Executive Director Julie Mullins said in a press release that her organization listened to members and the community and that “staffing shortages are a problem and are directly related to the lack of affordable housing for our member workforce.”

The recent increase in funding is the latest development in Housing Whitefish’s efforts to increase funding for its programs. In late September, Sidder presented to the Whitefish City Council about the workforce rental assistance program, including Housing Whitefish’s request that the city provide as much as $200,000 in funding for the pilot program. The presentation came during a work session, and members of the council generally indicated interest in funding the project, which Housing Whitefish could bring back before the council for a final decision before potentially launching the program early next year.

Sidder characterized the program as something to address short-term issues when it comes to housing in Whitefish, while long-term solutions continue to develop. The workforce assistance fund, as described to the council, would be for applicants making under 120% of the area median income, who pay more than 30% of their income towards rent, and work an average of 32 hours a week or 1,600 hours a year in a job in the 59937 Whitefish zip code.

The program would cap assistance at $4,800 a year for households, with payments not to exceed 25% of rent, or push them below paying 30% of their income in rent. Qualifying people would not be able to use money from the fund for emergency housing needs, utility payments, relocation services, or security and pet deposits.  

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