I have been a part-time homeowner in Ketchum for several years. I came for the excellent recreation, culture and beauty that our wonderful resort area offers. Over the years, I have followed, with dismay, the ongoing discussions on the need for affordable housing for Ketchum-area workers.
My family background is that of storekeepers, teachers and nurses, so I clearly understand that growing up in a fairly modest-income family impacts choices of housing and lifestyle. My parents, from Cleveland, Ohio, regularly drove at least 30-40 minutes from our modest but comfortable home to their worksites. While I chose to pursue a business career, I regularly drove 35-40 miles one way, in Chicago traffic and in Chicago weather, to my work location—usually a one-hour or more commute. It would have been nice to reside in a very expensive high-rise lake-front condo; that was not possible. Instead, I recognized that I needed to choose a community that was affordable for me.
Compared to commutes of 40 minutes or longer, which are commonplace in America, including in the Boise and Twin Falls areas, a drive from more affordable Hailey, Bellevue, Carey or even Fairfield or Shoshone is relatively easy. Additionally, many may find the family lifestyle better in those more affordable communities than in the often-artificial lifestyle that a resort community, populated with part-time residents and tourists, provides.
The reality is that affordable housing in Ketchum and Sun Valley is a pipe dream. Similarly, “affordable” groceries, sundries, household items and gasoline are not available in Ketchum or Sun Valley compared to Hailey and other locations to our south. The additional air-service tax and higher LOT sales taxes imposed by Ketchum and Sun Valley have further exacerbated those cost differences. It is time to recognize that we cannot legislate affordable housing or groceries or gasoline or the price of ski tickets, clothing or expensive equipment. We need to accept the reality that many middle-income families will never be able to live in our expensive resort community.
Attuned to those realities, the Aspen Skiing Co., for example, has announced that it is building employee housing in Basalt, Colo., 19 miles northwest of Aspen. Our elected leaders and the community organizations that continually beat the Ketchum affordable-housing drum would better serve all constituents by focusing their efforts on our valley communities that can truly offer affordable housing. This is a more rational and acceptable approach than pushing unrealistic affordable-housing demands on Ketchum and Sun Valley.
Liz Rossman is a resident of Ketchum.