By MICHAEL S. DAVID
Michael S. David is the executive director of the Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority.
The mission of the Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority is to ensure the supply of affordable housing opportunities for the citizens of Blaine County and the municipalities therein. The Housing Authority is a county housing authority formed in 1997 under Idaho State Statute 31, Chapter 42. While the county authorized the creation of the authority, the authority itself functions as an independent public-corporate body and does not constitute an agency managed the county. The statute further required that the authority be governed by a board of five directors whose purpose is to update the citizenry as to the operational progress of the agency as well as govern policy.
Unfortunately, the events that transpired this past week have interrupted the growing energy surrounding BKHA. BKHA emphatically hopes that this action does not serve as a harbinger for the future. As a public agency, BKHA can not escape all of the issues that come with the territory, but the staff remains committed to fulfilling the duty of providing homes for the citizens of Blaine County. BKHA has managed the sale of 44 homes to citizens that would not otherwise have been able to purchase a home in the Wood River Valley. Many of these highly productive citizens who purchased these homes were ready to leave the valley, seeking out alternative places where their valuable community-earned-and-spent dollars are welcome and tenable. We also have four affordable rental units in the city of Ketchum. Additionally, there are 94 affordable homes under construction or awaiting construction in the spring.
In addition to the homes under or awaiting construction, 538 affordable homes or building lots are proposed in Blaine County and its municipalities. These homes are the result of public-private partnerships created between developers, political bodies and the Housing Authority. The city and county governments have set the table for these units by drafting ordinances that both incentivize and mandate the production of affordable housing. The private developers executed the plans required by these municipalities and created quality, safe, affordable homes. Without their projects and the municipal requirements, this housing would not exist.
Housing has been labeled as a single problem in the Wood River Valley—an inaccurate label for its severity and depth. The issue of housing is comprised of a series of social, economic and political problems that need to be solved in consort and cooperation. While private-public partnerships resulting in integrated deed-restricted units have successfully created affordable homes, creative methods must be constantly created to combat the ever-increasing need for affordable housing. The Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority and advocacy groups such as Advocates for Real Community Housing (ARCH) must constantly educate the community about the issue. We need access to land to create affordable rental units in the North County (there are 492 permanently affordable rental units in the city of Hailey). We have to address the more moderate-income individuals who are unable to purchase a home in an area where the average listing price of a home is $939,800, according to a March 1, 2006, article in the Wood River Journal. We must continue to pressure the state Legislature to enact enabling legislation that will provide resources for the production of affordable housing. We need to continue work with the cities, the school district, and other employers on methods for creating employer-assisted housing. We must examine methods to financially assist individuals attempting to purchase market-rate homes (bridge the gap).
The Housing Authority maintains a list of applicants totaling over 500 individuals. These are citizens of Blaine County, households earning between $20,000 and $100,000, retirees and disabled persons. The BKHA provides financial counseling and homebuyer education to better prepare them for the eventual purchase of a home. If these people are marginalized and continually forced out of the valley, the community-values spirit that dominates every public meeting will evaporate, leaving Blaine County and its municipalities to find the rapidly disappearing soul that has brought so many wonderful people to this valley. Blaine County cannot afford to lose those citizens who would buy homes from BKHA or who are being displaced through skyrocketing property taxes.
If you are interested in participating in the process, either as an applicant or as a concerned citizen, please contact the Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority at 788-6102.