Study says Whitefish needs 1,000 more homes by 2030

Whitefish needs to add more than 1,300 homes over the next eight years to meet housing demand, according to a draft update to the city’s housing needs assessment.

At least 75% of these homes must be priced below market price, the study also notes.

The refresh comes after the initial valuation released in 2016 showed the need to add approximately 980 residences by 2020. Although Whitefish has added over 1,000 units over the past year, prices and rents have risen dramatically, availability has plummeted and now residents and employees are struggling more than finding homes, housing counselors say.

Of the housing units needed in the initial assessment, 60% were expected to be priced below market, but only 7% were.

Wendy Sullivan of WSW Consulting, who is part of the team leading the update, said that since 2010 Whitefish has seen 30% of its homes used as second homes.

“Basically, they’re not staffed by a full-time resident of your community,” Sullivan said. “Forty percent of the houses in your community are owned by people who don’t have a local address; they belong to people outside the region.

In July, the Town of Whitefish began work on an update to its 2017 strategic housing plan with the first step to update the housing needs assessment. In addition to Sullivan, Seana Doherty of Agnew::Beck is working on the update.

While the study notes that adding housing is essential, it also indicates that meeting housing needs is about more than adding supply, it is about adding housing at the right price to support the community of residents and employees.

“A dedicated supply of community housing for local households who live and work in the area enables local workers to compete with the strong external demand for housing,” the study says.

The assessment indicates that households that earn their living locally have mostly been squeezed out of the market price of owned accommodation simply because it has become too expensive. Homes priced below $500,000 are rare not only in the Whitefish area, but also in nearby communities, the assessment notes.

DRAFT The assessment identifies four key trends in the housing affordability challenge.

Wages are not keeping up with rising house prices and rents. The document indicates that house prices have increased by 17%, rents have increased by 7-12% and wages have increased by 5-7% over time.

“A common theme in communities, like your area, is a shortage of housing that people who make a living (here) can afford,” Sullivan said. “You’re competing against people with more resources, people who are cash buyers, and your salary just can’t keep up with someone making a lot of money in New York, for example.”

Rising regional home prices are a factor. The median sale price of a home in Whitefish in June 2022 was $950,000, which represents a 197% increase since 2015-2016. Home prices in Kalispell increased 243% with a median price of $650,000 and prices in Columbia Falls increased 174% over the same period with a median price of $575,000.

The report says that as the ability of employees of Whitefish businesses to find affordable housing in nearby communities declines, commuting becomes less of an option.

“Housing becomes an important competitive advantage in being able to attract and retain the employees you need,” Sullivan said. “You have about 57% of your workforce currently traveling to your area for work.”

Third, job growth and housing development are not aligned. Although Whitefish has added homes, prices and rents have risen at historically high rates, availability has plummeted, and local residents and employees are struggling to afford and find homes.

Finally, the report mentions the loss of community housing – affordable housing for community members who live and work in the area with a range of incomes – due to the increasing prevalence of short-term rentals, redevelopment such as apartments being lost to pending hotel development and the conversion of community housing to market rate units.

The assessment shows that 71% of single-family homes in the Whitefish area are owned by local residents, but out-of-area ownership was higher for multi-family units. He also notes that in 2016 there were 529 active listings for short-term rentals and in 2022 there are 1,422, an increase of 160%.

In addition, in terms of community housing, the refusal of 137 housing offers since 2016 is also technically considered a loss. “Each rejected project is a message to developers not to ‘risk’ using incentives, discourages public support and harms the ability to raise finance for housing,” the report notes.

The update notes some positives, including the rate of community housing development has increased since 2016, multi-family development has increased significantly in recent years, providing more diverse housing options and Whitefish has been more active in addressing issues. housing in recent years.

The city expects to get public comment on the draft plan. Then he will start using the update to create strategies for affordable housing.

A draft of the strategic plan for housing is expected in October and both documents should be submitted to the city council.

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