I want to congratulate Mr. Panissidi and his Del Mar Pacific development group for their planned renovation and expansion of the Alta Views housing project in Whitefish. Flathead County has an acute affordable housing crisis that makes it a huge challenge to retain qualified employees.
My son manages a downtown retail store, I work part-time at Whitefish Mountain Resort and my wife works for Xanterra and so we are quite familiar with the housing challenges most new and especially younger workers face (in both homeownership and in renting).
Even with the price point being projected for Alta View in the $289,000 range with hopefully PITI (including HOA fees) mortgages in the $1,650-$1,850 range will mean that household incomes will need to be between $59,400 and $66,600 or an average hourly wage of $14.82-$16.62 per person. I know this wage structure is way beyond what the resort and Xanterra pay (which is equally true for most hospitality and food service jobs). According to the Montana Department of Labor 2016 average annual wages in Flathead were $39,312 (or $3,276 per month or $19.62 per hour). Wages in the hospitality, food service and retail sectors fall to between $16,107 (food) to $29,173 (retail) or generally around $8.04 to $14.56 per hour. (These sectors represent 23 percent of the Flathead’s labor force and would be even higher for Whitefish). Meaning that two full-time working adults in the retail sector could just barely afford the smallest townhome in Alta View, if there credit were likely perfect, had no student loans or other major debt and had some money saved for a down payment.
I wish Mr. Panissidi and his project much success, but realize that the affordable housing crisis in Whitefish and all of the Flathead will need hundreds of smaller and less expensive units for members of the workforce like my family to afford homeownership and soon. Between 2015 and 2016 average wages only grew by 2.2 percent while average home sales prices in Whitefish grew by 6.5 percent (a trend that is frightening for our Valley’s long-term future).
Patrick Malone, Kalispell