Housing organizations say proposed Kalispell scheme should provide greater help

Housing organizations say proposed Kalispell scheme should provide greater help

A wider range of people are expected to be the beneficiaries of a proposal that would pave the way for some city funds to be used for workforce housing projects, experts told Kalispell City Council on Monday evening .

Cassidy Kipp, deputy director of the Community Action Partnership of Northwestern Montana, told city council that a housing needs assessment would better define need while noting that many workers in the community, including a teacher freshman, would not qualify because they earn less than the targeted income bracket.

“It is undeniable that we have a need for housing in this community,” she said. “It’s cavalier not to focus on what’s happening with our housing market and just invest money in a direction that we think could be helpful.” We need to know what our baseline is to measure our success.

A proposal being considered by the city council would make tax increment financing (TIF) funds available for projects with workforce housing for those between 80% and 120% or the median income of the zone or the AMI range. In Flathead County, the estimated regional median income for a household of four is $80,300.

The city council is due to vote on the proposal on October 3.

Elizabeth Langley, of Kalispell School District’s Heart Locker, which provides support to students struggling with homelessness, said the families she works with would not be eligible for housing that may come from the scheme because they earn less than the range .

“I have a family with two parents and three children who live in a car and both parents work,” she said. “They were driven out of the rental market, but they would be entitled to it. It is the families who must be included in this. These are the families who live here in our communities and these are the families we want to keep here.

To be considered 80% AMI, a household of four would need to earn $63,500. To be at 120% AMI, the household would earn $95,300.

State law already allows the use of TIF funds for workforce housing, but the proposal before the Board would call it out as a specific use and may impose income parameters on who would be eligible. for housing.

Kim Morasaki of the Northwest Montana Community Land Trust, which since 2012 has helped 50 low- and middle-income families buy homes through the trust program, also told the council that most of the households they served would not earn enough. to qualify.

“My waiting list includes teachers, people who work in nonprofits, counties, cities, office administrators, mechanics, grocery store managers,” she said. “These are the people who keep the wheels of the bus in this valley.”

Several COMMUNITY members also shared their personal experiences in finding housing, saying that the lack of housing at different prices is an ongoing crisis.

Ellie Suda, who works at the Kalispell Grand Hotel, said she was continually worried about housing after her rent rose by $500 over the past two years.

“It’s only a matter of time before I can’t live here anymore and I grew up here,” she said. “I brought my kids here to grow up and it’s really stressful to hold down any kind of job and have accommodation right now.”

Her son, who just turned 18 and is a fifth-generation Montana resident, is considering moving because of housing costs.

“To think that he’s going to leave the state and raise his family somewhere else breaks my heart,” she said. “If we don’t have housing for the workforce, you won’t have workers for your tourist town. People move because they can’t afford to live here.

Mandy Gerth told the Council that she would also not be eligible for housing under the scheme since she earns 48% AMI like many of her colleagues.

“I’m part of the workforce,” she says. “I even spent two years trying to find a job that paid $40,000. Based on affordability guidelines, I would need to spend $900 per month on housing – good luck finding that in Kalispell.

Retired nurse Betty DeHoop said she knows doctors and nurses who want to come work in the Flathead Valley but can’t find housing.

“They take what’s maybe more affordable for others because there’s no housing,” she said. “There is no accommodation for anyone.”

Jamie Quinn, executive director of the Flathead Food Bank, said in her own recent efforts to secure rental accommodation, she had found a unit to rent for $1,700 a month that did not have a heater in the bathroom. and the tiles had been removed from the shower.

“We can’t house anyone in this room if they lose their accommodation and we can’t house you,” she said, pointing to the council members. “I think Montana’s values ​​are to be good neighbors and to house everyone and we all need to come together and do that.”

In previous discussions, the Board appeared split on the issue, with several wanting more flexibility in the program’s revenue guidelines and others saying the change was unnecessary because developers can already apply for TIF funds for infrastructure costs.

Kalispell plans to update two of its Urban Renewal Plans – the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan and the West Side/Core Urban Renewal Plan – to allow TIF funds to be directed to housing projects. Developers could apply for funds to help with workforce housing.

Currently, a developer could ask the city to have TIF funds directed toward a project’s infrastructure costs, which some say would then lower the overall price, leading to lower housing costs. The proposed changes would allow a developer to apply for TIF funds specifically to reduce the cost of rent.

Managing Editor Heidi Desch can be reached at 758-4421 or hdesch@dailyinterlake.com.

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