By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer
The Blaine County Housing Authority is pointing to higher employment rates and a decrease in newspaper rental listings as a sign that demand for affordable housing options is on the rise.
The BCHA and ARCH Community Housing Trust work together to provide affordable rental and deed-restricted home ownership options in a county where high real estate prices have kept many from residing locally.
“Increasing population and jobs will add to the demand for affordable ownership and rental housing,” states a BCHA semiannual report to stakeholders for the period Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014.
The BCHA used Idaho Department of Labor statistics to compile a semiannual report on the current state of the housing market, and found that 129 jobs were added in Blaine County from March 2013 to March 2014.
“The Blaine County labor market is showing signs of recovery,” the report states. “The strongest number is in the unemployment rate, which is 5.3 percent in March 2014, down a full point from a year ago.”
Blaine County’s labor force is currently made up of 12,129 workers, 13.5 percent lower than its peak in 2006 when 14,030 lived and worked here.
Yet the BCHA report states that single-family home sales data during the past two years reflect a real estate recovery and a seller’s market in Hailey and Bellevue.
“Our research and conversations with real estate professionals, shows that the decrease in the number of homes sold is due to lack of inventory and not a lack of demand.”
The report also states that the majority of BCHA clients work in Ketchum.
The report states that the number of open market housing units sold in Hailey and Bellevue decreased 55 percent between the second quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2014.
“Our research and conversations with real estate professionals, shows that the decrease in the number of homes sold is due to lack of inventory and not a lack of demand,” the report states.
Despite the apparent increased demand for housing, the Hailey Community Development Department reported Monday that spring building activity has dropped sharply since last year.
The total valuation of construction in Hailey in April and May was $782,000, compared to a total of $3.74 million during the same period in 2013, said Planning Assistant Kristine Hilt at a City Council meeting Monday.
Based on an analysis of Idaho Mountain Express newspaper listings for rental units over the past four years, the BCHA reports that rental rates are up 5.3 percent in Blaine County, while the supply of units is down 24.8 percent.
“We have interviewed property management companies large and small, individual landlords and realtors and virtually everyone interviewed indicated [that] when they have a vacancy they need to fill, they put a classified advertisement in the Idaho Mountain Express,” the report states. “We are confident that our data collection method captures the largest sample of vacant units available in Blaine County.”