It goes without saying: The Wood River community is the sum of its parts. No one is unimportant. The restaurant waitresses, grocery clerks and snow-removal operators who scrape our roads at 4 a.m. are necessary threads in the fabric of our community. Housing becomes problematic when real estate values have priced homes well past most young individuals’ entry level. Local rental markets are also too expensive, with escalating prices, due in part to Airbnb. Even at $15 per hour, most people can’t afford $2,000 per month rent.
Solutions are controversial: “Let ’em go south, Fairfield, Shoshone, Gooding, wherever.” Yet more and more complain when they get poor service at a restaurant or can’t get their street plowed. Others believe the city has a responsibility to create low-cost housing. Still others question whether it’s the business of the city to be involved in low-income housing.
One issue is not ownership, but simply a place to stay. Many people want to work, want to get ahead and yet cannot afford a place to stay. A successful model has been the Sun Valley Co. For over half a century, clean, secure dormitories have created privacy, security and affordability. The community’s reward has been exposure to bright, charming young people from cultures around the world.
It’s unlikely that other Ketchum businesses are capable of this largesse. Perhaps the City Council’s job is to create an independent housing authority, whose task is to create affordable places to stay—not own—possibly financed by taxes on those who come here expecting services (airport, lodging, real estate transactions). This would not be dissimilar to Phoenix’s tax plan, which provides the Spring League baseball fields and services for the estimated 15 million people who visit in the spring. Just one thought.
Pierce Scranton, Ketchum