Friday, September 26, 2008

Hailey discusses plans to take over affordable housing

Fate of Blaine County Housing Authority uncertain

Express Staff Writer

Due to the uncertain fate of the Blaine County Housing Authority, Hailey officials are discussing plans to take over of management of affordable housing in their city. Those plans include working with real estate agents, the ARCH Community Housing Trust and the Blaine County Housing Authority (BCHA).

Members of Hailey's city council responded on Monday to a county meeting last week, during which BCHA Vice Chairman John Flattery requested that the BCHA be dissolved as it currently exists.

"Either fund us, or dissolve us," he told the commission.

The Blaine County Housing Authority is facing a perfect storm created by a tripod of converging events: recent court decisions striking down linkage ordinances, municipalities that have pulled back on their public funding of the authority, and the overall poor housing market.

In the past few years the BCHA has overseen the development and sale of 9 affordable housing units in the Wood Side subdivision of Hailey. Currently the BCHA is seeking an executive director to replace Jim Fackerell, who left the agency two weeks ago.

The city of Ketchum and Blaine County have been the housing authority's most consistent financial backers. Ketchum has allocated $70,000 for the organization's 2009 budget and Blaine County has allocated $67,000, both the same as last year.

Meanwhile, Sun Valley has reduced its allocation from $35,000 last year to $10,000 this year, and Hailey has reduced its allocation from $12,000 to $6,000, in part to pay for emergency dispatch services.

Bellevue and Carey do not help fund the authority.

"We are seeking interim solutions to the affordable housing issue," said Mayor Rick Davis on Monday. "We need to be forward looking on this."

Davis said those solutions are likely to include the city taking over management of available affordable housing (deed restricted units) from the BCHA, the use of a database of qualified affordable housing buyers compiled by the BCHA, and the use of real estate agents to get buyers into those units.

"Each of the communities in Blaine County has its own needs with regard to affordable housing," said City Councilman Don Keirn. "I have believed from the beginning that Hailey can handle its own affordable housing management."

Councilwoman Carol Brown said it was important that Hailey establish a workable affordable housing plan, despite recent events that have left the future of the BCHA in doubt.

"Ketchum is a ghost town," she said, implying that housing prices have led to low and middle- income earners fleeing the city. "We might not be that far behind Ketchum."

ARCH Community Housing Trust recently sold its first affordable home in Hailey, and purchased the land last year to accommodate Blaine County's first Habitat for Humanity project in Bellevue.

Davis said that both the BCHA and ARCH could provide assistance for the city.

"ARCH is a non-governmental agency so they can acquire grants," said Davis. "The BCHA is a governmental organization, so they can bond."

Hailey expects to see 69 deed restricted housing units come on line within a few years with the build out of Old Cutter's Subdivision and Sweet Water Town Homes.

Two units are available now at the Quigley View condominiums on Croy Street.

In addition, the city owns property on River Street behind Sutton and Sons automobile dealership with room for 8 affordable housing units. Davis said the River Street property could provide ground for a joint public-private development in the future.

"This is not on the front burner right now," he said.

In other Hailey news:

· City Council denied ARCH Community Housing Trust a lot line vacation (abandonment) of a portion of Walnut Street. The vacation was intended to increase density enough on a piece of county owned property to split the lot in two in order to build two homes for county employee affordable housing.

· City Council will begin deliberations on the Quigley Canyon Annexation request in November, or after final studies on water use and sewer impacts are available to the public.

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