Friday, January 13, 2006

Housing decision wise

Reversing course on a tentative affordable housing plan was not a sign of weakness but good judgment by the Ketchum City Council that it sensed a dubious deal was in the making.

The proposal would've had the city lay out $600,000 for four condos for exclusive use by Ketchum city employees who'd qualify for affordable housing.

Happily, new City Councilman Steve Shafran and then other council members spotted the shaky rationale for the purchase and decided against it.

First, the $600,000 could be used more prudently, perhaps as rent subsidies for employees wherever they live. And second, Ketchum's city administrator doesn't need the chore of being a landlord with all the other challenges facing the city. And third, restricting taxpayer-financed housing to city employees implicitly would be wrong: Many non-city workers whose jobs are vital to the economic life of Ketchum would be shut out as prospective tenants.

In the meantime, affordable housing is no less an urgent challenge.

Every citizen and every business and professional entity in the area is affected by the ability of workers to find proper housing for themselves and their families.

If that truism seems too abstract, consider the plight of average homeowners if traditional household repair and maintenance services suddenly were unavailable because a lack of workers, and to a business unable to find employees because of prohibitive housing costs.

Affordable housing to attract and retain employees in the community's full economic spectrum is as sensible as investing in the best office equipment.

In fact, employees are better investments than machines.

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