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Habitat builds meaningful change for Flathead Valley

by Daily Inter Lake
| December 10, 2023 12:00 AM

“Home for the holidays” has new meaning for three local families this December.

Habitat for Humanity of Flathead Valley unveiled a trio of houses on School Addition Road in Somers last week that will be occupied by three young families. The homes were built over the last year entirely by Habitat staff with help from a community of skilled volunteers and the new homeowners themselves, who commit to assisting with the construction effort at least eight hours a week.

Habitat’s guiding principles are aimed at building homes that are “decent and affordable.” The houses are purposely modest in size — large enough to meet a family’s needs, but small enough to keep the project affordable. 

Matt Venturini, president of the local Habitat chapter’s board, has it right when he says every little bit counts in keeping costs down — from the volunteer sweat equity to business contributions and ReStore donations. The end result of the Somers project means three families have a chance at realizing their dreams of homeownership.

“I still have a hard time believing I will be a homeowner, and my son and I will have a beautiful safe place to come home to every day, a place that is ours,” Habitat-home purchaser Shanell Berkey said at the recent dedication ceremony detailed in today’s front page story.

Her comments strike a chord during this season of giving, particularly at a time when average housing costs far outpace the average income.

According to a September 2023 study from the Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the median earning household no longer has enough income to qualify for a median priced home in the Flathead Valley. The median house price in Flathead County in 2012 was $197,750. That ballooned to $655,400 by 2022, a 231% increase over the last decade.

Unfortunately, trends suggest this scenario is only going to get worse with the valley’s continued rapid growth and lagging housing supply.

“What is really at stake is the welfare of the people who depend on adequate, affordable and safe housing for shelter, security and basic needs,” the bureau warned in its report. “Addressing the shortage of housing in the state’s fourth largest county should be a priority of all of the decision-making entities within the county if the unfortunate trends that have pushed adequate housing beyond the means of many households are to be meaningfully changed.”

Meanwhile, Habitat for Humanity of Flathead Valley is out there in the community building that change with every pound of a hammer and every cut of a saw. To date, the chapter has completed 67 homes representing 105 adults and 156 children.

Anyone moved to lend a hand should revisit the words of the late first lady Rosalynn Carter, who invested a lifetime of energy into the Habitat for Humanity cause.

“This is something that brings together people who have everything they need and those who don’t have so many things we take for granted,” she said. “You come to know the homeowner and love the homeowner and their family. It makes you aware and care about the people and hope they have good lives and good homes. It has made me a better person.”

To get involved with Habitat for Humanity of Flathead Valley, visit