Ketchum’s “Lease to Locals” program has helped house 23 people since it started in the fall, but city councilmembers last week were left wondering how many more it could accommodate—and who should bear the cost.
April’s update the “Lease to Locals” program—organized by Placemate, formerly known as Landing Locals—generated more than the usual amount of passionate back and forth from the council, with Councilman Michael David bothered by the lack of commitment from the Valley’s other cities, and Mayor Neil Bradshaw and Councilman Jim Slanetz at odds over whether it is the government’s role to support the program.
“I struggle with this a little bit,” Slanetz said last week after Placemate’s CEO Colin Frolich presented a list of companies that have had employees placed under the Lease to Locals program, which pays cash incentives to homeowners who adopt affordable long-term or seasonal leases. “Some of these corporations have billions of dollars in oil and in real-estate holdings, and it comes down to the city and taxpayers that are actually paying to house people.”
Bradshaw said that he thinks it is unfair to apply this standard to Placemate when public funding for other housing projects was approved without the same criticisms. Slanetz replied that he still thinks the onus should fall on employers, not taxpayers.
Ketchum set aside more than $400,000 to incentivize landlords—which will total $2,000 per tenant for seasonal leases (five-plus months), and $4,500 per tenant for long-term leases (12-plus months). The maximum grant amount is $18,000. Half of the grant will be distributed when the lease is signed, and the other half at the end of the lease. Lease agreements are handled by the landlord and tenant; Placemate simply offers the online rental platform, and a promise to work “with homeowners to guide them through the process of qualifying for the grant,” according to a news release from the city of Ketchum.
Since the program began in September, Placemate has housed 23 people. Those housed work for a variety of local employers: Sun Valley Company, St. Luke’s Hospital, Coldwell Banker, Apple’s Bar and Grill and the Casino, to name a few. Bradshaw said he sees no difference between a nonprofit employee, an employee of a local restaurant and an employee of a national corporation with an office in Ketchum.
“There is no difference because they are all contributing to the community,” he said.
Perhaps more notable than the number of those housed, though, is the number of applicants who did not qualify for the program.
Frolich said that 36 homes have been rejected because they are located elsewhere in the Valley. Seventeen of those are in Sun Valley, 12 are in Hailey and seven are elsewhere in Blaine County.
“That is a good indicator that if we were ever to expand the program, there are a lot of homeowners elsewhere that are interested and are in our system,” he said.
David was frustrated by these figures.
“We have 36 opportunities for housing that we aren’t able to fund because they are on the other side of a line on a map,” he said.
Sun Valley and Hailey both expressed interest in contributing financially to the program before eventually backing off. At a meeting in November, Sun Valley City Councilmember Brad DuFur advocated for the program, stating that his real estate office was involved in one of five Placemate deals made in Sun Valley but paid for by Ketchum.
“It’s the neighborly thing to do,” he said at the time.
Hailey City Council members also expressed varying levels of support before ultimately deciding not to fund the program. Bradshaw said there is still room for negotiation.
“We will approach those jurisdictions, show them the interest in their areas, and then ask them to participate, and each of us [would pay] some of it in an ideal world,” he said.
David advocated for funding those houses without the assistance of other municipalities.
“I am not really looking at Hailey as much as I am the county and Sun Valley. Twenty-three people in housing is great, but there are [24 housing opportunities] in Sun Valley and Blaine County that would do great things for the Ketchum economy because they are a mile and a half away,” he said, adding that “we don’t live in an ideal world.” ￼
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I made…what? One Councillor wants to house non Ketchum workers outside of Ketchum at Ketchum expense? And now the Mayor has repudiated his “lifeblood of the community” people for corporate welfare? Their real colors are showing. The Mayor wants taxpayers to house the workers of large businesses like Sun Valley Co and Marriott. What a mess. Why don’t we start with non profit workers, teachers and healthcare workers before we house Sun Valley employees and Coldwell Banker staff?
Councilor Slanetz has it right. It is not the community's obligation to subsidize housing for private employers! Wages need to rise through market mechanisms. All the time, effort and handwringing to create "affordable" housing is tilting at windmills.
How about focusing on a bone fide pro-worker agenda like creating/enforcing a liveable minimum wage for the city?
This article is confusing. It says Sun Valley property owners can't participate in the program. Then it goes on to quote Brad Dufur as saying his office placed 5 tenants in Sun Valley properties. Which is it?
Employers win by having the financial needs of their employees met by local tax revenue.
Welcome to the discussion.