Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Housing Authority attempts to meet needs of work force

Guest opinion by Michael David

Guest opinion by MICHAEL DAVID
Michael David is the executive director of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority.

The Idaho Mountain Express published an editorial Wednesday, June 15, questioning the purchase of and subsequent redevelopment for the North Fork Trailer Park by the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority.

The Housing Authority has entered into a contract to purchase the park, and is presently performing due diligence to consummate said purchase. The Housing Authority is also designing a plan for the eventual redevelopment of the park after purchasing the property. The schedule and conceptual design of the redevelopment have not yet been determined, but contrary to the implication by the editorial, the fate of the present residents of the trailer park is of the utmost importance to the Housing Authority. We have begun and will continue dialogue with the current residents in order to achieve a solution mutually satisfactory and advantageous to both parties. We will meet with them on a regular basis to keep them apprised of the progress of the project. Upon redevelopment, current residents would be given priority towards the acquisition of the new affordably priced homes, and relocation assistance would be given to those that might not qualify or otherwise desire living at North Fork.

The editorial pointed out the importance of preserving existing affordable housing in Blaine County but failed to examine the possible future of the park had the Housing Authority not gotten involved. I trust the author was not in favor of the park being purchased by a private party without sufficient incentive to protect the 42 homes from remaining affordable to Blaine County employees. I believe the author is not condoning the purchase of the park by a private party who would eliminate the 42 homes in favor of two more large luxury mansions in the North County. I also think the author would not want to see the presently substandard health and safety conditions of the park erode to a point where the park would be forced to shut down. As it is the Housing Authority's intention is to improve the health and safety of the park and preserve in perpetuity affordable homes at the North Fork, we hope to avoid another instance where Blaine County families are dispersed as we all look on—offering no solution but silence.

The editorial also stated that "affordable housing seems geared sharply toward incomes of professional and commercial employees." The homes that have been created by developers in conjunction with the Housing Authority have all been geared for households earning less than 100 percent of the area median income. A majority of the existing 22 community housing homes are occupied and/or owned by employees earning less than 80 percent of the AMI. The Pine Ridge and Shum Frenchman's Place developments in Ketchum will include seven homes available to households earning less than 60 percent of the AMI. Nine homes in the Elkhorn Springs development will be occupied by those earning less than 60 percent of AMI. Nineteen homes in the recently approved Quail Creek development will be for those earning less than 60 percent of AMI. These homes are not "geared toward incomes of professional and commercial employees." In fact, these homes are geared toward the medium- to low-income workers the author of the editorial implied was being excluded.

The mission of the Housing Authority is to assure the long-term supply of desirable community housing choices for the work force of Blaine County. That work force includes service workers, laborers, retail, professionals, nonprofit employees, small-business owners, emergency service, municipal employees, care givers, artists, media personnel and others. The provision of affordable housing choices is essential to maintaining a healthy and balanced community. To sit back and do nothing is not a viable solution to solving the Valley's ever-increasing housing crisis.

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