After decades of putting aside the issue of middle-income and workforce housing, elected officials in every town in the Wood River Valley are finally acknowledging the elephant that has been in the room for decades.
Unfortunately, the elephant now has broken ribs, punctured lungs, a twisted trunk, punctured ears and internal bleeding. It is struggling to breathe. Restoring it to health will require more than treating one or two injuries. We must treat the whole beast or it will expire.
Too many elected officials are looking at the elephant’s problems in isolation as if putting a Band-Aid on a few scrapes will be enough.
Cases in point include the move by a valley fire district to construct more housing for firefighters, the Blaine County School District’s consideration of providing housing subsidies for teachers, the city of Hailey’s look at a deal to buy a couple of units to house city employees and a nonprofit’s housing project for senior citizens.
Firefighters, emergency medical personnel and teachers are noble public employees and their noble purpose inspires ringing calls for housing for them. Seniors activate others’ protective instincts for people in a declining stage of life.
Marketing experts would say these groups have great branding potential. Other groups don’t have the same kind of popular appeal, but are no less necessary in resort towns.
No one is issuing urgent clarion calls for the following:
Housing for plumbers!
Housing for electricians!
Housing for retail clerks!
Housing for dry cleaners!
Housing for bartenders!
Housing for exterminators!
Housing for insurance agents!
Housing for event planners!
Housing for office workers!
Housing for artists!
Housing for musicians!
Housing for actors!
Housing for concrete workers!
Housing for car wash attendants!
Housing for river guides!
Housing for house cleaners!
Housing for taxi drivers!
Housing for caterers!
Housing for cooks and food servers!
Housing for salespeople!
Housing for carpenters!
Providing housing for charismatic groups may gratify public officials, but it will not heal the housing beast. If the elephant expires, the vigor and vitality that people without good branding bring to the Wood River valley will die with it.
“Housing for all!” should be the goal, not just housing for those with good branding.
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