Public, Private Resources Needed To Solve Housing, Ketchum City Leader Says

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Owner and architects (L-R) Gary Poole, Rebecca Bundy and Susan Scovell, of Silver River Place, a 16-unit workforce housing project in Hailey that serves as one type of solution to the Valley’s housing challenges. Photo credit: Wood River Weekly

Ketchum’s Housing Action Plan (housing plan), developed collaboratively with representatives of businesses and nonprofits, public representatives, real estate interests and community input, was adopted by the Ketchum City Council on May 9. The plan is a road map of goals and strategies to keep productive focus on the Valley’s workforce housing shortages and bring new tools and policies to bear that foster strategic, efficient, and coordinated action throughout the community.

“With county-wide collaboration, we have crafted a multi-faceted plan to tackle our housing crisis,” said Mayor Neil Bradshaw. “Successful implementation of the plan will require funding from a multitude of sources and actions from ourselves and our implementation partners. We are encouraged by the response from our community and look forward to taking the next steps that will put a roof over the heads of our workforce.”

Implementation of the plan is estimated to cost $5–$8 million annually for expenses ranging from underwriting incentives for property owners to setting up tracking and communications systems that help the public, employers and workers effectively navigate housing options.

Stakeholders that have signed on as implementation partners agree that both public and private resources will be needed to fulfill the goals of the plan. These dollars have the potential to be leveraged three to five times by capital investments in specific housing projects and initiatives enabled by the actions taken because of the plan.

One of the plan’s recommendations is to establish a team of experts and implementation partners. Participants will include:

  • Ketchum housing strategist Carissa Connelly (expert)
  • Carter Cox, philanthropic coordinator for the Warm Springs Preserve (expert)
  • Blaine County Housing Authority (implementation partner)
  • The Hunger Coalition (implementation partner)
  • St. Luke’s (implementation partner)
  • The Advocates (implementation partner)

This team will focus solely on housing solutions, working to coordinate and better leverage local funds. Coordination will include exploring, documenting, and creating a tool to catalyze philanthropic funding for specific housing solutions.

The housing plan includes quarterly implementation meetings. One such meeting will be with other jurisdictions’ administrators and planning directors, and a second with implementation partners. These facilitated meetings are an opportunity to explore synergies where formal partnerships might improve outcomes, talk through any tension or discrepancies, and learn together on vital housing and housing-related topics.

Under consideration through county-wide coordination is a shared housing department consisting of Blaine County Housing Authority and other housing resources, which may cause some housing plan actions to look slightly different. However, since the housing crisis isn’t limited to Ketchum and the housing plan is based on and implemented by partners who work Valley-wide, the transition would be a subtle pivot while expanding the physical area. Interested jurisdictions and entities could adjust and adopt the housing plan, agree to common data sources and work with the housing team.

‘Show Me The Money’

In order to have the capacity and resources to undertake the holistic framework of the housing plan, there needs to be a combination of recurring, predictable public funds with specific injections of private capital. And that may be happening.

City of Ketchum officials agreed to place LOT on the ballot because reliable, local funds are necessary to stand up housing programs that would otherwise die once one-time funds dry up; and such funds leverage more resources to address the housing crisis. Actions in the housing plan that could be funded by LOT include homeownership assistance, “Lease to Locals,” emergency assistance for displaced and at-risk tenants, preservation of existing affordable housing, and adding new workforce housing. Wood River Weekly will have more information in its June 1 issue since press deadline fell before May 17 election results were available.

One of the most promising sources of private funding is philanthropy. Sally Gillespie, executive director of Spur Community Foundation, puts it this way:

“Our community has a long and powerful legacy of generosity enabling transformational improvements to the quality of life in our community. Just consider the hospital, the new Bloom Food Center, the Campion Ice House, the Draper Preserve, the Argyros, the YMCA, and the Sun Valley Pavilion to know that this is true. That same potential exists for housing.”

Donations can be made to nonprofits whose missions are focused on housing, such as ARCH, which is developing 28 workforce and affordable homes with private and public funds, or the newly formed Wood River Community Housing Trust, the first nonprofit of its kind nationally to innovate a new capital structure for workforce housing development. Dollars given to these entities can directly support the production of dedicated housing inventory.

As an aggregator of both philanthropic capital and information about local nonprofit activity, Spur Community Foundation is in a unique position to identify and facilitate philanthropic investments in the housing arena through its Community Housing Fund. Just as Spur strategically distributed grants from its Community Response Fund to address needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, Spur will pool donor contributions to make grants wherever philanthropy can make a difference in the viability and ultimate success of workforce housing initiatives. “I believe the community has the capacity to respond with the same generosity for housing as it did to pandemic relief and the preservation of Warm Springs Ranch,” said Gillespie.

Another avenue for philanthropy exists through the Blaine County Charitable Fund (BCCF), whose mission is to create stable and resilient communities in Blaine County primarily by providing emergency financial assistance. BCCF was founded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic when many Blaine County citizens lost employment and income. For many people, those financial hardships continue. Currently, 54% of households seeking help from BCCF are doing so for housing costs. The Hunger Coalition noted the same—where half of their clients need housing assistance as well as food assistance.

Lastly, there will be opportunities for individuals to invest in solutions as specific projects come through the pipeline. These could be developments put forward by for-profit and nonprofit employers seeking solutions for their workers, or by commercial developers that require patient capital with reduced expectations of financial return.

While the housing plan is currently powered by the City of Ketchum, it is a community plan that relies on participating partners. For example, the housing plan intends for the housing team to identify and publicize opportunities for community members to participate financially, advocate for housing policy improvements at the state and federal level (like allowing a real estate transfer tax and vacant homes tax), and directly help house and support neighbors and community members (such as with the Lease to Locals program).

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