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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 11 - July 17, 2001


Creative grappling

The Wood River Valley has never seen as many initiatives on the table for affordable community housing.

Love `em or hate `em, it’s long past time the valley shelved the bickering and explored concrete options for affordable community housing.

A new apartment complex in Hailey, county identification of areas in which affordable housing might be built, and a demonstration development in Ketchum are bright lights on what has been a dark and lifeless plain.

The Balmoral Apartments in Hailey are the first of their type built in the Wood River Valley for more than a decade. The 120 units that opened recently were welcome news for middle-income tenants who had tried in vain to find suitable apartments with price tags in line with local wages.

The benefits are widespread.

New workers in the valley and young families finally have better options than a tiring and dangerous two-hour daily commute from cheaper areas south of the valley¾ or living six to a dump. The apartments offer the chance for workers to get a toehold in the valley where they work.

Businesses that have had difficulty retaining employees because of the housing crunch can breathe a little easier. The second phase of Balmoral will bring the total number of new community apartments to 192.

But one apartment complex at some distance from the majority of jobs in the north valley isn’t enough. The valley needs a mix of affordable options located closer to jobs.

Blaine County is debating what’s turning out to be a controversial ordinance that could allow increased densities for developers who provide affordable price-restricted housing in certain areas outside cities.

Ketchum is looking at developing a building on Main Street that may include office space, up to 15 deed-restricted rental units and five market-rate rental units. The site is what is now known as Ketchum Town Square, which includes old City Hall, a dilapidated shell that deserves to be scraped more than most old buildings in town.

In theory, Ketchum’s demonstration development is the best of the bunch. It would locate residents downtown where water, sewer, police and fire services already exist. Residents could walk or bus to work, thus reducing traffic on the valley’s congested highway.

Enough developments like this one could help ease highway congestion, save workers money on commuting, and create a vibrant town. They could reverse the theme-park trend in which Ketchum is inhabited only by visitors and the hollow shells of vacation homes after hours.

After years of Not-in-my-backyard politics and leaderless drift, it’s great to see some creative grappling with a problem that affects everyone.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.