The Ketchum-based Advocates for Real Community Housing hosted its first housing leadership awards at the nexStage Theatre Friday, June 24.
The event was part of a weeklong series of events on affordable housing that included visits to local projects and seminars exploring steps that have been taken at other resort communities. The goal of the effort was to promote projects and programs that will provide better, more accessible housing for working people, who are considered by many to be the backbone of the community.
The programs specifically identified the problems of people who are not high-wage earners and are facing astronomical housing costs, as the Wood River Valley quickly becomes an exclusive, high-end destination not only for tourists but also for second-home owners and retirees.
The theater seats were rolled back for people attending Friday's luncheon, which included a keynote speech by the U.S. Asst. Secretary of Community Planning & Development Pamela Hughes Patenaude and a speech by Idaho Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum.
"Affordable housing (helps) keep the community what it is," Stennett said. Addressing comments he has heard that Sun Valley and Ketchum are losing their character, he added, "(The community) is losing its character in part because it's losing its characters."
Patenaude, who spoke first, said that home ownership is the cornerstone of President Bush's housing initiative.
"Affordable housing (provides) a synergy of (community) spirit," she said.
"The New Face of Affordable Housing," a short film directed by Ketchum resident Tobin Jutte that portrays what people are facing in terms of housing challenges, was also featured during the lunch hour and through the week.
"I was glad to help the community out with anything I could," Jutte said Friday night after the Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits concert, sponsored by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts at Hop Porter Park in Hailey. "Seeing all those faces at the concert made me realize how dead Ketchum has become."
Andy and Alice Schernthanner were recognized for their contributions and energy helping to ensure that development of The Fields housing complex in Ketchum included community housing. They were awarded ARCH's first YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) award.
"When I first came here I couldn't find a place to live," Alice Schernthanner said. "(They) didn't want any damn hippies."
Introducing Idaho Mountain Express Publisher Pam Morris as ARCH's "Unsung Hero" of affordable housing, Stennett, a former publisher of the Wood River Journal, described Morris as a fierce competitor and a close friend—depending on the era.
Both Morris and Stennett agree that the vibrancy of the community and the success of its leaders and business owners will suffer if people are forced to drive an hour and a half to get to work.
Stennett said Morris has been an advocate of affordable housing for the 25 years she has been publisher of the Express, and that she has been unrelenting on the critical issue.
"We've seen her passion," he said. "It is a critical issue for her."
Morris praised her staff for keeping the issue in the forefront of their beats and said she will continue to challenge the community to get the work of providing affordable housing done.
A final award to the "Developer with Community Vision" was given to Robert Kantor of Clear Creek LLC for his work developing the Quail Creek subdivision south of Ketchum.
The subdivision, which is planned to include 39 deed-restricted homes, was described as a thoughtful, well-designed rural village that will maximize use of the sun and encourage contact with neighbors.
Kantor congratulated Citizens for Smart Growth for its efforts at promoting community housing in the valley.
"I thought they were 'no growth' but found indeed ... they were advocates for smart growth," he said.
As the luncheon wrapped up, Rebekah Helzel, founder of ARCH, said housing is a regional issue that will take the efforts of all members of the community to find solutions.
"I'd like to think of this as the beginning rather than the end," she said in closing.
Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority Executive Director Michael David agreed.
"We need to build on an awareness that is at an all-time high," he said. "We need to turn this into a social cause that can be looked at from a regional perspective."