Property assessments: a housing squeeze
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
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
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.