Friday, January 20, 2006

Pineridge discussion broadens in scope

Affordable housing units back in general pool


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Three more deed-restricted housing units in Ketchum will be put into the general pool following the city's decision to not buy them as rentals for city employees.

The council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday, Jan. 17, to revoke a prior resolution to purchase units in the Pineridge Townhomes project, 1908 Warm Springs Road.

Earlier this month, the city decided not to enter into a purchase and sale agreement for one of the units.

Tuesday's action means the $600,000 the city was going to spend on the four units will be available for other housing needs.

One option city officials have explored is seeking out private property owners willing to offer long-term leases to city employees. Rents could be subsidized by the city, which, proponents argue, would be cheaper than buying units to rent.

Ketchum City Administrator Ron LeBlanc said the response so far from private property owners has been "tremendous."

"I think through this approach we can solve that (rental) part of the problem," he said.

Michael David, executive director of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority, said his preference was to keep the Pineridge units in the general pool.

"I'm troubled by taking these units from the ownership inventory," he said. "If you go about it right, there's ample opportunity for (rental) units, and you have the benefit of not having the city be a landlord."

Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman attended Tuesday's meeting to emphasize his, and other department heads', difficulty in recruiting employees because of the high cost of living in the Wood River Valley.

"Once they get up here you can try to get them into workforce housing or market-rate housing," LeBlanc said. "But you've got to get them here first."

Lyman agreed that recruiting employees is one issue and retaining them is another, he said.

"We've got to have several clear objectives and make sure those transition options work," he said.

The decision to opt out of the Pineridge units doesn't end the discussion on rentals, however.

Other factors for future consideration include establishing criteria to determine which employees get the long-term rental in subsidized units and how long they can stay.

"We need a top-to-bottom review of how our employees are housed," said Councilman Steven Shafran.




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