Flathead Beacon - Growing Pains

I don’t see a quick fix to it.

Flathead Beacon - Growing Pains
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Read the article at the Flathead Beacon, by Mike Kordenbrock
From the article
“In an echo of other Flathead Valley communities, the city of Columbia Falls has been confronted with a need for housing accelerated by pandemic population changes and growth that has driven increased interest from developers, and increased pushback from people in the communities where large-scale changes have been proposed. At the same time, rental prices are spiking due to the same scarce vacancies and market conditions that have squeezed renters in the valley.
For nearly 50 years, Mike Shepard has lived in the Columbia Falls area. A city council member of 30 years, and a longtime planning board member, Shepard has watched the ups and downs of the community, including the shuttering of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC) plant where he used to work. He references that economic blow — the loss of over 1,000 steady jobs — in explaining his perspective that the city is dependent on growth for its survival.
“How do you stop growth? You don’t. You try to control it because it’s going to occur,” Shepard said, adding that he’s been predicting a growth spurt in Columbia Falls for years.
“The question is when? When’s here. COVID accelerated all of this up because people wanted to get out of where they were.”
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Census estimates show the city added more than 850 residents from 2010 through 2021; meanwhile, Flathead County added over 13,000 residents, making it the fastest rate of county growth in MontanaAt the time the city’s growth policy was last updated in 2019, the city had projected a need for 300 new units of housing by 2025 and 336 by 2030.
“We have to look at some development that’s going to show some density and get some places for these folks to live. If you could finally get your density up, I think you’ll find that prices are going to start moderating and getting closer to what people are making, and that can be affordable,” said Columbia Falls Mayor Don Barnhart, speaking generally about the city’s growth and housing situation. “I don’t see a quick fix to it.”

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