For the week of January 20, 1999   thru January 26, 1999  

Harlig seeks legislation to preserve existing affordable units


By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Commissioner Leonard Harlig has proposed a concept aimed at preserving existing affordable housing in Blaine County by lowering property valuations and deferring property taxes on some private housing.

According to Harlig, preservation of existing affordable housing is as important as the creation of new affordable housing.

Blaine County’s property valuations are high and the county’s stock of affordable housing is very low relative to the demand, Harlig said.

Increasing property valuations lead to inflation of property taxes. Tax increases to property owners are passed along to renters making existing affordable housing less and less financially viable.

Henry Nagle of the Idaho State Tax Commission said he believes this concept has merit for communities such as the Wood River Valley, but that counties need enabling state legislation to carry it out.

State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, and state Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, both have said they support the proposal, and met yesterday with the state tax commission to discuss it.

According to Jaquet and Stennett, the concept could be carried out under existing law through a hardship-exemption provision of the Idaho code.

They added that to sustain an affordable-housing exemption, property owners participating in the program would be reviewed annually by the commission—if rents were raised the exemption could be taken away.

Jaquet referred to this concept as "another valuable tool, but no one silver bullet." She said a combination of programs is needed to address the affordable-housing issue in Blaine County.

 

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