The need for housing that is affordable for local residents has a long history in the Wood River Valley. The pandemic and subsequent demographic changes have added jet fuel to the issue, and to the housing insecurity felt by many residents in the community.

Over the last 20 years, people from local government, non- and for-profit organizations, and individuals, have supported efforts to create more workforce housing in the Valley knowing that this issue would impact our community to the core and wanting to do something about it.

Most of the work to move the workforce housing initiative forward and to create tools to bring more housing affordability to the Wood River Valley has taken place in the background. The creation of ARCH, KCDC, KURA and the BCHA have given us the infrastructure to create and manage affordable housing. Zoning revisions, in lieu fees, real estate tax assessment changes, and state funding priority changes have created funding opportunities and building opportunities.

Recently, Idaho Housing and Finance Association awarded more than $23 million in federal funding to local affordable housing developments, creating over 100 units of truly affordable homes in Hailey and Ketchum (Blaine Manor and Bluebird). These are great accomplishments that the community should be celebrating, but the goalposts have been moved downfield.

With this momentum, we have local infrastructure to do much more affordable housing. There are local funding options which need to be leveraged with state, federal and other funding. Local funding alone cannot address the housing issue; it needs to be leveraged with state, federal and other funding. Applying for non-local funding takes time. Successful applications for non-local sources requires long term site control. The single biggest issue for affordable housing is having a site. Funding for housing is only attainable with a site. Local governments and sponsors should focus on site acquisition—that is, land for housing.

In the current environment, it seems like everyone is recognizing the need to increase housing options and many old and new ideas are once again on the table. The framework is already in place but more needs to be done. It is complicated, and those who are educated and experienced in the challenges and opportunities can help solve our housing crisis. Real experience matters. As a community, we can accomplish this.

  NIMBYism and inconsistent political support have thwarted many real affordable housing proposals over the last 20 years, including five in the last 10 years. These proposals have been stopped by a few local residents and inconsistent political support. The community would be hundreds of units ahead on the issue if it were not for this opposition. With local businesses on their knees, workforce housing needs consistent local political support.

  To address the affordable housing issue, the community needs to stay the course with unwavering political support for the past work and keep the momentum going for new tools and new homes. These efforts take years, and don’t always overlap conveniently with election cycles. The mayoral and city council candidates need to be true to supporting what has been accomplished, and what still needs to be done.

On Nov. 2, you can recognize the ongoing efforts and support for workforce housing with your vote for experience. 

Gregory Dunfield is the owner of Seattle-based GMD Development, which built Northwood Place in Ketchum in 2010 and is currently developing Bluebird Village. He is a 47-year full- and part-time resident of Sun Valley and Ketchum.

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