Economic growth from high-paying and non-polluting tech companies is the dream of every American community. As the old adage warns, be careful what you wish for.
In a Washington Post article aptly titled “How San Francisco Broke America’s Heart,” journalist Karen Heller described how dreams of prosperity have become nightmares.
The city was once beloved as the Paris of the West for its unique mix of immigrant diversity, artistic quirkiness, bohemian tolerance and stunning physical beauty. Now, Heller writes, newly minted millionaires and billionaires, the result of the Bay Area’s tech success, are the only ones who can pay stratospheric real estate prices.
Mom-and-pop restaurants, shoe repair shops and grocery stores are being forced out, and with them go the wages that employees used to pay rent. The lack of affordability is making once riotously colorful San Francisco monochromatic.
Blaine County is teetering on the edge of the same fate. Affordability becomes an increasingly critical issue as more and more wealthy investors discover the area’s unique qualities. As in constrained San Francisco, a limited supply is being met by a growing demand.
The affordability squeeze has taken an even sharper turn. Blaine County is normally atop most every lifestyle measurement. Recently, however, the Housing Authority reported that local wages fell below those in other parts of Idaho in 2018.
That means paychecks, the main source of income for most residents, are moving even faster in the opposite direction of property values. Employees and small-business owners are pushed out of the valley or kept from moving in.
That such forces damage the economic ability to do business in the valley is well-recognized. Failing to make the necessary provisions for affordable housing will do more than economic damage. It will cut the very heart out of this community.
The private willingness to pay almost any price must be counterbalanced with public planning, regulation and investment. San Francisco is a tragic example why.
Curtailing property value growth in ways that ensure both economic sustainability and affordability is the only way for any community tapestry to retain what gave it color in the first place.