Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Whose housing shortage?

"Is this city being asked to be responsible for housing needed by other cities?"

That's the question asked repeatedly by elected leaders in all the valley's cities. It comes up every time plans for development of workforce housing are discussed as part of public or private developments.

The answer should be obvious, but the question won't go away.

It's prevalent because it's easier for elected officials to deal narrowly with issues that pertain directly to their cities, rather than with issues with broader underpinnings.

It's always easier to lay the responsibility for shortages of housing and employees on someone else's doorstep even though all residents work, live and trade in the whole county—not just in parts of it.

For example, an estimated 10,813 people, or 64 percent, of all local workers hold jobs in Ketchum and Sun Valley while an estimated 5,738, or 34 percent, hold jobs in Hailey and Bellevue, according to the July 2006 Blaine County Housing Needs Assessment.

Yet, 60 percent of all workers live in Hailey or Bellevue, and just 14 percent live in Ketchum and Sun Valley. About 17 percent of the workforce commutes from outside Blaine County. Of people who work jobs in the north county, 44 percent live in Hailey.

There lies the answer to the question, "Whose housing shortage is it anyway?"

Jobs in Ketchum and Sun Valley have spawned bedroom communities all the way south to Shoshone. Growth in Hailey and Bellevue is tied directly to job growth all over the county, but particularly in the north. Jobs and housing are inextricably connected.

It's everyone's housing shortage. Valley leaders should quit quibbling about who's responsible and get on with finding solutions.

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