KETCHUM, Idaho (KMVT / KSVT) —Over the past several months, KMVT has been briefing viewers on the housing crisis in Blaine County. Now the local school board is looking for solutions to help the school district retain and recruit employees who are struggling to find housing.
According to the Blaine County Housing Authority, the median price of housing and renting has increased by more than 40% since 2013. The problem has been going on for years but has only worsened in recent years as many second home owners are returned to the valley. a consequence of COVID.
“Then a lot of the rentals that were available long term for our workforce housing migrated to Airbnb and VRBO,” said Dan Turner, director of BCSB.
One of the employers affected by the housing crisis is the Blaine County School District. According to a recent survey conducted by the Donovan Group this summer, about 20% of employees in the Blaine County school district said they rent, and 60% of people who rent have seen their rent increase monthly over the past year. . Due to high housing costs, 72 percent of staff considered leaving the district. Turner said the issue had also impacted the district’s ability to recruit staff.
“Over the past year, we’ve had a large number of skilled employees who have had to turn down contracts because they couldn’t find places to live,” Turner said.
To address the issue, the school district and council struck a housing task force over the summer to explore options and immediate solutions. intermediate and long-term housing. One short-term solution they are currently exploring is an emergency housing assistance fund, to provide relief to individuals or families spending 30 or more of their adjusted gross income on rent, utilities and other living costs. relevant housing.
“We created a sort of product modeled on the town of Sun Valley,” Turner said. “Our employees will apply for the program, submit all of their financial statements to a third-party administrator, and we will determine who among the staff really bears the rent burden.”
The two-year pilot program could offer stipends of $ 500 to teachers and full-time staff who have rent to pay. The program will be funded by a resolution that would authorize the immediate transfer of over $ 1 million from the Financial Emergency Reserve Fund to the newly created Emergency Workforce Housing Fund. The resolution and policy should first be approved by the board of directors. Blaine County Housing Authority executive director Nathan Harvill believes more Wood River Valley employers could start doing similar projects.
“If you are a business owner, or an organization, or something, and looking to attract and retain talent, you may need to expand your reach in the housing market and find places where to live for your staff, ”said Harvill.
If approved at the October school board meeting, Turner said he plans to have about 80 places in the allowance program, to be strategically divided between certified staff (mainly teachers), the classified staff (para-professionals, nurses, bus drivers and other essential support staff), and new recruits in the neighborhood. If all goes according to plan, they hope to be able to offer staff assistance by the end of the year or the start of the new year.
Turner said that a long-term goal they are considering is the development of housing for the small and large-scale workforce.
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