Friday, July 11, 2014

Demographics and destiny


    The Blaine County Housing Authority reported this week that the middle class is shrinking in the Wood River Valley as a result of a sputtering economy and stagnant or declining wages.
    Workers here are having trouble affording the cost of housing in the real estate and rental markets that are recovering more rapidly than wages. In other words, the Sun Valley area once again is beginning to suffer a debilitating lack of adequate workforce housing.
    Achieving a reasonable balance between workforce housing units and market-rate units is essential to the economic and cultural success of the area going forward. It won’t be easy, but it never was. To fail to address the issue will be like posting a sign at Timmerman Hill saying, “Haves only.”
    That might sound fine, but it’s a good bet even the “haves” wouldn’t like the result.
    If local government boards don’t address the problem, the average age in the area will continue to go up, given that Millennials are struggling even harder to make lives in the area than the Baby Boomers who preceded them. Businesses—the ones enjoyed by locals and visitors—will be hard-pressed to retain good employees. Volunteer operations will be starved of the people who make them work. The area will be deprived of the energy and creativity that artists and craftspeople bring to communities.
    A wise person once wrote that demographics are destiny. Blaine County and its cities must pay attention to ours and actively try to keep workforce housing in the mix. Otherwise, our lively and bustling mountain towns could wilt and become the faded remnants of a golden age.




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