Group goal: roofs over workers’ heads


Members of the Regional Housing & Growth Issues Partnership have identified a new target: ways to increase housing availability for the working class.

At the H&G partnership meeting on Monday, group leader Kiki Miller presented a draft of a “local worker housing toolkit” for northern Idaho.

“What we recognize is that there has to be some balance in the county that provides inventory and housing for people who have to live in the county,” Miller said.

The definition of a “local worker” who would be entitled to housing is still unclear. But Miller said the term refers to middle-to-low-income careers in health care, grocery shopping, restaurants and other commercial industries.

The toolkit contains housing strategies already in use in the United States. While the document is still in its early stages, Miller hopes the partnership can use it to develop responses to the housing crisis in northern Idaho.

“It is intended and designed to be a living document,” Miller said, “in that as markets change, barriers and legality change throughout the county and state, we can change it. . “

The toolkit is divided into four chapters:

• Existing inventory protections

• Incentives for eligible projects

• Types of housing programs

• New ideas

Some options listed:

• Short-term rental orders and modifications

• First right of refusal

• Zoning reviews

• Cooperatives with limited capital

• Employer sponsored housing programs

• Non-profit funding for start-up programs

• Voluntary land use restrictions

• Community land trusts

• Generational housing codes

• Rental programs with option to buy

• Real estate transaction supplement

Miller said the strategies aren’t quick fixes, but concepts the group will dig into for months, if not years. She thinks this is a start to developing a “long term guide to seeing what and where we can go with some of these options.”

“The elected officials and the public need to know what can be done,” Miller said.

The partnership’s schools subcommittee is also reviewing employee housing, Coeur d’Alene School District operations director Jeff Voeller said.

“Teacher salaries average around $ 40,000 to $ 45,000 a year. We know it’s hard enough to afford a house, and some of our support staff are earning. even less, ”Voeller said. “So the idea of ​​how we find housing that our staff can live in and function in is going to be a critical issue.”

The nine-person subcommittee also plans to examine schools’ options for funding capital projects.

An assessment of affordable housing in Kootenai and Shoshone counties is underway. Led by two professors at the University of Idaho, the study recently distributed surveys to thousands of local employers and employees.

“We’ve all heard anecdotal stories, but we wanted to go directly to the people in the community who live here to hear what they’re going through,” Panhandle Affordable Housing Alliance representative Maggie Lyons said at the meeting. Monday.

Lyons said the survey aims to collect first-hand experiences from tenants and landlords on personal hardships caused by the housing market.

The study had collected more than 1,800 employee surveys as of Monday, Lyons said. The UI study plans to send a third survey to 1,700 local real estate agents to gather sales trends and market data.

The study has a deadline for completion of October 31. Once published, the document will be available for public consultation.

“We hope everyone reads it because we believe it will provide a good rudder for our ship here in Kootenai County to understand the issues and challenges of real-time data,” Lyons said. “I think it’s a perfectly timed effort with this group.”

The next meeting is September 27.


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