Much Ado About Housing

Modular homes built using shipping containers came to Bellevue in 2019. Photo credit: Mandi Iverson

An overview of housing projects coming to a ‘South Valley’ neighborhood near you

By Eric Valentine

Editor’s Note: In the last issue of Wood River Weekly, we looked at the housing supply plan for Valley jurisdictions from Hailey north. What follows is a summary—recent highlights, really—of what each governing body from Hailey south is doing to make sure the working class and high-net-worth folks of this mountain getaway don’t resort to moving or wintering somewhere else.

Don’t Blame It On Blaine

County leaders can’t be accused of not being creative. In December, planning and zoning leadership approved further consideration of allowing tiny homes on wheels, or THOWs, to be used for year-round residency in Blaine County. The recreational vehicle units would be between 150 and 400 square feet in size and able to provide independent living facilities for one or more persons, which includes permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.

All of it requires some changes to county code, something that would have to be approved by county commissioners in 2022.

Bellevue Not Bellwether

Less than two years ago, Bellevue was home to sustainable, affordable dwellings constructed from old shipping containers when IndieDwell erected two such houses on the southeast corner of 4th and Cedar streets. Less than a month ago, however, two proposals initiated by city staff to increase allowable housing density in downtown Bellevue got tabled indefinitely, citing concerns about a drain on sewer capacity.

One proposal would increase allowable building sizes from 26,000 to 36,000 square feet in the General Residential, Business and Light Industrial/Mixed Business districts, and allow for buildings beyond 36,000 square feet with a conditional use permit. The other proposal would allow more leniency in city zoning codes to allow for smaller unit sizes on large multi-family apartment projects.

Not Carrying Much Weight

You have to go back to March 2020 to find any significant, large-scale housing development in Carey. Nonetheless, the defeat of Mayor Randy Patterson to former city planner Sara Mecham can’t be dismissed. In post-election TV interviews, Mecham attributed her experience as a city planner and Carey voters’ growth-related concerns as the reason for her win over Patterson.

That March 2020 development was a 13-acre, 35-unit subdivision on Little Wood Reservoir Road, about 400 feet north of its intersection with U.S. Highway 93. A mix of single-family units and duplexes was proposed by Grizzly Bear Properties LLC of Twin Falls. The latest real estate market data shows median home prices in Carey approaching $300,000—not necessarily affordable for some working-class families.

An Un-Fairfield Flight

Less than 600 souls reside in Fairfield today, so it has been bantered about as an affordable housing solution waiting to happen. The slow takeoff of the private airport development in Fairfield also suggests more housing proposals could come to the Camas County town. But as far as it pertains to housing, none of that looks to break ground to any significant degree in 2022