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Displaced Ketchum residents demand action for community housing

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Posted at 5:34 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 20:06:06-04

KETCHUM, Idaho — A housing shortage in the Blaine County area was worsened by the pandemic.

Now, three displaced Ketchum residents speak out about what led them to look to local government for help.

Around 150 people attended a rally in Ketchum Town Square over the weekend to demand action to improve the workforce and affordable housing in Blaine County.

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Houses are often being bought by out-of-state individuals with more capital, and many landlords are ending leases to sell at top-dollar or proposing drastic rent increases. People like long-time Ketchum resident Reid Stillman are running out of options.

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“When my lease runs up September 1, I honestly have no idea where I'm going,” said Stillman.

Stillman said he grew up in Ketchum and recently moved back around two years ago. He said he has a good job and works in advertising and lives in a 500-square-foot loft that was recently sold for around $420,000. Because not many long-term rentals available in the area, he said it will be hard to find a place to move to.

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“I have friends who are sleeping in their cars, camping, sleeping on friends' couches, they have nowhere to go,” said Stillman.

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Dee Towner is another Ketchum resident who had to leave the area and move to Mountain Home in order to find a place to afford and accommodate his girlfriend and dog. He said some of his friends were on waiting lists for low-income housing for years, which is something he said he did not want to do.

“Some people don’t have two years to wait to find a place to live,” said Towner.

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Roseana McCauley has been a Ketchum resident since 2017 and runs a business in the area. She said her living situation was turned upside down when her landlord decided to turn her living space into an Airbnb.

“I am currently displaced. I am moving around to wherever I can find friends to take me in,” said McCauley.

Following the rally on Saturday, organizers decided immediate action needs to be taken. They said they will be calling on their city council for an emergency meeting to come up with some workable solutions.

Related: The housing market was already tight in Blaine County. Then the pandemic hit.

“Unless everyone comes together, and presents solutions and can compromise and can meet in the middle we are not going to get anywhere, said Stillman. “We are going to lose our businesses, we are going to lose our community, and I know that is extreme to say but it’s the truth and someone needs to say it.”

The City of Ketchum is currently working to get 56-unit community housing development built known as Blue Bird village. But that project could take years.

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“We need immediate action,” said Krzysztof Gilarowski, one of the rally organizers. “To see what we can do for the people being displaced now."