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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday, June 18, 2004

Our View

Property assessments: a housing squeeze play

Everybody whose wages or salary was boosted by 15 percent this year, raise your hands.

We thought not.

The one thing with dollar signs that did go up 15 percent this year in the Wood River Valley (in addition to gasoline pump prices) was Blaine County property assessments.

And therein lies a crisis in the making.

Rapidly upward creeping property assessments mean yet more housing is slipping out of the reach of average wage earners in the Wood River Valley.

With faster increasing property values, plus the speculative real estate market, the number of workers who can’t afford to become homeowners is rising—the very workers needed to keep the valley’s economy growing and its important commercial and public services stable.

How many more times does this urgent need for adequate and affordable housing for average wage earners need to prove itself? The leap of property assessment increases announced by Blaine County Assessor Valdi Pace is merely one more jolt.

The need for housing is spread across the job spectrum—government workers, retail store staffs, construction trades, medical and emergency services, and school faculties.

The stock of available housing these workers can afford shrinks in direct relation to the increase in property values and the bigger price tags without equivalent growth in their disposable income.

Since their employees are affected, valley companies and government should be at the forefront in helping create a more aggressive housing program. In time, if adequate housing is unavailable, valley employers will find that to curb the paucity or flight of workers they’ll have to pay premium salaries and expenses to recruit and retain adequate staffs in this area.

Finding ways to ensure a competent and adequate work force in a community is as vital a civic function as protecting public safety with proper fire, police and medical service.

As Nobel economist Milton Friedman and other financial realists frequently advise, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Pay now or pay later.

Yes, the method and formula for assessing property is controversial and might well need reform. But that eventuality rests with the unpredictable state Legislature, where change comes slowly, if ever at all.

So the emphasis for now must be action—aggressive development of housing for workers who grapple with a daunting challenge—how to remain in the valley while finding the wherewithal for more expensive housing to do so.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.