Friday, July 13, 2007

Local housing outlook is bleak

If the Wood River Valley is ever to begin to meet the need for workforce housing, something's got to give. To date, little has budged, and this week it got worse.

Fifth District Judge Robert Elgee snuffed the city of Sun Valley's fledgling fund for workforce housing when he ruled that fees charged to developers of new homes are an illegal tax because the Idaho Legislature never granted cities the right to impose the fees.

The decision leaves resort cities and counties utterly hamstrung in meeting the desperate need for workforce housing.

Don't blame the judge. Blame the Idaho Legislature that has refused to give resort cities or counties any kind of expanded local-taxing authority to deal with housing and transportation needs. The Legislature is a dumb bunny on this issue.

Instead of looking at resort cities as valuable contributors to the state's economy, legislators treat them like shirttail relatives asking for handouts. Legislators from rural areas don't grasp that middle-class working families like their own have been priced out of resort communities. Unlike their Colorado brethren, they refuse to see the strangling effects of mega-sized second, third and fourth homes and thus find no need to intervene. Why?

Because the first commandment in the unpublished but well-known Idaho Legislators' Book of Faith makes taxation a sin—a sin that is worse if taxes flow to any government body but the state.

It's a tenet of faith that needs rewriting.

Idaho's resort cities and counties should launch an all-out lobbying blitz to overhaul the tax laws that punish hard-working families, destroy resort economies and benefit only rich speculators.

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