It sounds like the city of Hailey is working toward increasing the supply of workforce housing. However, no matter how well-intended, its efforts will fail if it relies only on increasing the supply without controlling the price of rentals and other workforce housing.

Most other mountain resort communities have successfully attacked shortages of workforce housing by restricting increases in home values and limiting ownership to working residents—moves that help to avoid the pressures of speculation and real estate prices in other states that have no relationship to what local incomes can support.

Communities in the Sun Valley area have steadfastly avoided or minimized deed-restricted developments and rent controls. However, the area is fast becoming the poster child for what happens when local governments don’t use those tools to help sustain the local economy. Instead, local leaders—elected and unelected—continue to insist that the forces of supply and demand will take care of the problem.

In living memory, supply has never outstripped demand in the Sun Valley area. To insist that is a danger is to ignore the evidence seen in most other major mountain resorts.

Actions by the Hailey City Council to allow high-density apartment dwellings in appropriate areas in its downtown seem to be a step in the right direction. Its consideration of allowing the construction of accessory dwelling units on some residential properties also seems like a good step.

However, neglecting to control prices and to control short-term rentals in new units will nullify any beneficial effects of the increased supply.

Without price controls, housing will continue to be unaffordable for the middle- and lower-income people who make up the valley’s workforce. Continued housing shortages will shrink the workforce, close businesses and drain the life out of what historically have been lively towns.

Maintaining vitality and the “real town” nature of our mountain towns is up to local elected officials, planners and developers. If they continue down the present path, the valley will become a collection of empty storefronts and scarcely occupied luxury residences and rentals

The belief that increasing housing supply alone will stop the displacement of working people from the Sun Valley area is a myth, plain and simple.


“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to editorialboard@mtexpress.com.

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