Occupy Town Square

Demonstrators recently gathered in Ketchum to rally in support of more affordable workforce housing in the valley.

The Blaine County Housing Authority board voted Wednesday to pass a resolution voicing their concern about “unprecedented increase” in housing costs in the Wood River Valley and urging the community to take action.

The resolution calls on members of the community to “take action, advocate and give elevated importance to the protection and promotion of the welfare of the community as a whole.” It also urges community members “to be aware of how individual actions collectively impact our neighbors and families and the economic health of our community and to seek out long-term solutions.”

The median advertised rental rate for a two-bedroom apartment in Blaine County reached $2,000 this year, according to data collected by the Housing Authority, jumping up from $1,680 the year prior. The median rate had steadily climbed over the past decade, more than doubling since 2013 when it was $941 for a two-bedroom. The median advertised rent for three-bedroom homes in 2021 is $2,700.

Purchase prices for homes have risen as well, with median prices nearly doubling between 2013 and 2021: from $265,714 to $468,750 for a two-bedroom, and from $348,750 to $655,000 for a three-bedroom.

“We’re all appalled at the increase in rental prices,” said board member Liz Keegan in a special meeting Wednesday night. “It’s a five-alarm fire. We need to act as a community and really step up and do something.”

Board member Mason Frederickson said he had concerns about a previous draft of the resolution, which condemned “unconscionable rent increases” in Blaine County, as he worried about the Housing Authority “stepping out of our lane and into the market.” But Frederickson ultimately voted in favor of the latest version of the document, which did not include the words “condemn” or “unconscionable.”

Krzysztof Gilarowski, organizer of the Occupy Ketchum Town Square rally that took place last weekend, and Ketchum City Councilman Michael David both praised the board’s decision to pass the resolution during the meeting’s public comment period.

“Countless local residents are being displaced or are in fear of being displaced,” Gilarowski said. “It was a problem before, but now it’s a crisis.”

David described the resolution as “a courageous step” while noting that it was “maybe symbolic in some respects.”

“But I still think this is much needed to send that message out,” David said.

Board Chairman Nate Hart acknowledged that the resolution may have an equivalent impact to “shouting into the wind,” but added that “it’s better to be shouting into the wind than to not do anything.”

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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