Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hold ’em or fold ’em?

The Great Recession has thrown the last 40 years of economic experience into question.

It's left Ketchum, Hailey and Blaine County with public policies on affordable workforce housing that need to be revisited for assurance that they are still needed or be revised to fit new circumstances as new economic realities take hold.

Affordable workforce housing was scarce during the nearly 40-year run-up of home values in the area. Incomes didn't come close to enabling workers to own or rent suitable local housing. Consequently, employers had difficulty recruiting employees, and young people were driven out.

The cities and the county enacted policies designed to increase the supply of workforce housing, then a sensible response to a thorny problem. Today, the entire economic landscape has changed.

It's a renter's and buyer's market, with units available at previously unimaginable prices. The stall in the construction industry has sent many workers elsewhere and left tenants with an abundance of units to choose from. Landlords are offering incentives. Foreclosures have created major opportunities for first-time homebuyers.

It will take time for demand to catch up with the supply of existing affordable units held by private and public entities. In the meantime, the valley would be well served by elected officials and local planners taking a look at the new realities of housing, forming scenarios for the future and resetting the course on housing.

Like Kenny Rogers said, you've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

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