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

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Posted at 5:58 PM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 08:15:08-04

KETCHUM, Idaho — A housing shortage in the Blaine County area has been an issue for years. Thanks to the pandemic, it's only gotten worse.

Blaine County Housing Authority Executive Director Nathan Harvill said residents in Blaine County have to compete for housing with people coming in from outside the area due to increased telework options. These individuals often have more capital, which drives up the price of housing.

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The ripple effect? A large displacement of the rental population.

Many landlords are ending leases to sell at top-dollar or proposing drastic rent increases of up to $600 more a month.

That's a cost many Blaine-area locals cannot afford.

“We have a lot of entry-level jobs and a lot of retail jobs, and a lot of restaurant jobs that are not going to be filled because they cannot find a workforce that will make those positions work,” said Harvill.

According to the Blaine County Housing Authority, from 2013 to 2021, the median purchase price adjusted for inflation for a 2-bedroom house increased 43%. That’s a difference of more than $200,000. The number of rentals available has decreased, as a housing authority survey shows the number of advertisements for 2 bedroom rentals decreased more than 8% from 2019 to 2020.

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"The old adage when I took the job 3 years ago was everyone in Blaine County either has three jobs, three roommates, or three houses," said Harvill.

To help relieve some stress, a 56-unit community housing development known as Blue Bird Village has been proposed in Ketchum. The development recently made its way through the pre-design review process in a Planning and Zoning meeting.

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The housing shortage has become such an issue that a Ketchum man is organizing a rally for people who want their voices heard when it comes to supporting community housing in Blaine County.

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Krzysztof Gilarowski has lived in Ketchum for five years. He says he's tired of seeing people leave the Blaine County community because of a lack of housing in the area.

As the housing shortage continues to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilarowski has organized a Facebook group called Occupy Ketchum Town Square Rally.

He hopes people who support community housing will join him for a rally on May 22.

“To just bring out the people that are for workforce housing in one place and show support for these kinds of developments,” said Gilarowski.

Gilarowski also said if the issue is not resolved, local businesses in Blaine County could possibly close down due to a lack of workforce.