EPA Grant Will Help Families Afford Montana

Restoring these sites opens opportunities to transform these properties into much-needed housing

By Ben Long

When my wife and I began our careers in the Flathead Valley 30 years ago, we were lucky enough to buy a house.

The house – one bedroom, one bath – cost us less than $50,000. That house today is posted on Zillow for $350,000.

That’s a 700 percent increase. Local salaries have not come close to keeping up. This is our housing crisis in a nutshell.

Every family should be able to afford a roof over their head. Where will working class people live?

There’s no easy answer. But our housing situation got a shot in the arm thanks to a federal EPA grant of $500,000 awarded to the Montana West Economic Development Foundation.

This grant is dedicated to the assessment, cleanup, and restoration of brownfield sites– areas that pose challenges for development due to the presence of harmful substances.

Restoring these sites opens opportunities to transform these properties into much-needed housing, fostering downtown growth, and strengthening the heart of our cities. 

Wisher’s Auto Recycling in Kalispell, the old Evergreen Kmart, the Glacier Gateway School Buildings, and Larry’s Post and Pole in Columbia Falls have been identified as potential sites for conversion into affordable housing, as well as community recreation areas and senior housing. Let’s welcome these efforts for not only addressing environmental concerns, but also promising solutions for crucial housing needs and encouraging economic growth.

This grant was made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It represents the largest sum of money ever awarded by the EPA’s Brownfields Grant programs. Nice work, Montana West.   

The Flathead Valley should always be a place where young couples can live out their dreams. If we work together, it can be.

Ben Long