COMMUNITY HOUSING FAQs

What is AHC's Position On Community Housing?

We want community housing for our hard-working neighbors who contribute to the vibrancy of our small mountain town.  However, we are wary of all projects that, if built in the scale and density proposed by the city, would irrevocably change the nature of Ketchum.  We don’t think these kinds of housing projects are necessary.  We would like to keep the “city” out of the City of Ketchum and preserve our “real town” ethos.

We believe that decision around spending taxpayer money should be based on data and analysis, rather than demagoguery and political correctness.

We would like to work with the City to develop a plan for community housing that incorporates the following:


•    A workforce study to see what kinds of jobs paying what kind of wages exist in Ketchum.  Then we can compare that to average housing prices in Ketchum to determine how many people potentially would need community housing.


•    A survey of potential tenants of community housing to determine what kinds of living arrangements make the most sense for them.


•    A survey of every Ketchum business to understand what its hiring needs are and how community housing can help.

•    The City should conduct multiple group meetings of voters, taxpayers, business owners and potential tenants to help guide the ultimate plan.


•    A site selection study that analyzes both publicly and privately held real estate for potential community housing.


•    A revision to the zoning code to eliminate the height and parking incentives to developers.


•    An increase in the "in lieu of payment" to keep step with the cost of providing a unit of housing and a premium to incentivize a developer to incorporate community housing.


•    This study should be publicly available.


•    The study should be a basis of a preliminary plan that creates options, including the costs and how the costs can be funded, for community housing.


•    The City should adopt that plan and stick to it for at least 5 years.

We also believe that our neighbors in community housing should live amongst us throughout the community, not segregated into a housing project in the middle of the retail core.

LET'S THINK CREATIVELY –

Beyond One Size Fits All Solutions

While community housing is needed, we need to think creatively, beyond one size fits all solutions.  We advocate for distributing community housing throughout the community.  However, it is reasonable to consider other sites for multiple unit community housing, similar to Northwoods.

How we pay for community housing also needs a plan.  How do we pay for it now?

 

— Zoning concessions to developer on density, height and parking requirements
— Free city land to tax-credit financed low-income housing like Northwoods
— Direct cash payments from the City’s “in lieu” payments for community housing to developers of tax-credit financed low-income housing
— Subsidies from KURA to tax-credit financed low-income housing

Other communities are more creative in financing community housing, and employ additional options such as:


— Flip tax on second homes
— Short term rental tax
— Hotel tax
— Sales tax surcharge
— Increased property tax mil rate, with a homestead exemption for full-time residents

 

None of these are novel ideas.  They are frequently employed in other mountain towns.  Some of these target raising revenue for housing for lower paid tourism related jobs from the people they service—tourists.  Most of these have minimal impact on full-time resident taxpayers—such as the teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, etc., who make up the “lifeblood” of Ketchum.

In addition to the City having for-profit developers build apartment complexes and then telling people where they have to live, we could also consider housing vouchers that lower-income workers could apply to market rate housing in Ketchum.  In contrast to projects like Bluebird, vouchers would ensure that taxpayer subsidies are going to people who actually work in Ketchum.

What is Community Housing?

There is no actual definition of this term.  You often hear of workforce housing or affordable housing or low-income housing or public housing used interchangeably.  The Coalition thinks of community housing as housing for community members who contribute to the vibrancy of Ketchum, but who, without some kind of housing subsidy, would not be able to afford to live in Ketchum.  The Mayor in his 2/3/21 editorial and in the FAQs he had posted to the City website, calls it workforce housing and says it applies to ”teachers, police officers, firefighters and others who are integrated in a community, yet who often cannot afford to live in the communities they serve.” (City of Ketchum website).

But given how Ketchum is developing this type of housing it really applies to people who earn less than 60-120% of the area median income.  So it could include a much wider group of people and could include people who do not work in Ketchum, but would prefer to live in Ketchum.

Why do

we need Community Housing?

Because the supply of housing is outstripped by the demand in Ketchum.  This has resulted in an escalation in home prices that has exceeded the escalation in wages and priced many of the people who are integral to the community to have to either work multiple jobs to stay in Ketchum or to move down valley and commute.


The City has produced numerous policy statements over the past 30+ years calling for community housing, including its 2014 Comprehensive Plan (by law, the governing document for property development), which included a statement that “The Ketchum community wants the majority of people who work in Ketchum to have an opportunity to reside [in Ketchum], and “we also want people who have lived here to be able to stay here regardless of their age.  We know that a diversity of housing is critically linked to a stone economy and a year-round population.”


There has been no study done on what percentage of the people who work in Ketchum live in Ketchum.  It has never been done, and no such study is planned by the City at this time (Jade Riley, 2/18/21).
The City staff believes (see HERE) that short term rentals exacerbate the lack of community housing.  Again, they have done no studies on this at all, instead referencing studies of resort towns in Colorado with ski-in ski-out type communities.


The City also asserts that business owners are putting pressure on the City for more community housing.  While that may be true, there is no publicly available data on this.

How many units of Community Housing exist in Ketchum?

According to the City’s inventory, there are currently 121 units, in a mix of owned and rented units, with another 9 in process.  You can find the inventory HERE.  We think this undercounts the units in progress by about 10 units,  The count does not include the 8 that were rejected by the P&Z at Hot Dog Hill.  

What is Ketchum’s plan for Community Housing?

We do know the answer to that, per City Planner Jade Riley on 2/18/21.  There is no plan.  The City builds what it wants at the initiation of the Mayor.

How many people working in Ketchum need Community Housing?

Another excellent question.  No one knows.  There has been no study on this, and no plans are in the works for such a study (Jade Riley, 2/18/21).

Where are the best sites in Ketchum for Community Housing?

You got us on that one, too.  Again, according to Mr. Riley on 2/18/21 there is no study of appropriate sites for community housing in Ketchum.  They just build it when and where they think they can.  While the City has been pushing Bluebird as the only viable project on the one hand because there are no appropriate sites, on the other hand they say there will be future projects on other sites.  (We are as confused as you are).

What are the incentives for private developers to build Community Housing?

•    Certain developments are required to either build units of community housing or to pay an “in lieu of” fee to the City.  The "in lieu of" fees are typically much lower than the cost of building a unit of housing, so most developers go that way and the funds are building up at City Hall.


•    Most community housing in Ketchum other than Northwoods are units that are incorporated into larger mixed use projects.


•    If a developer builds an apartment under 700 sq ft, there is no requirement for the developer to provide parking.  So guess what happens? We get a lot of small apartments and a lot of really large luxury apartments, and the middle is left out.

•    If a developer builds community housing in a certain area of town, they may get “height relief” and be able to add an extra floor to their development.  That means that instead of the usual three story limit, they can go to four stories—1/3 higher than any building around them.  Of course, if you are a hotel developer, all bets are off.  The City Council gave the Limelight a waiver to five stories. In addition, the Ketchum Boutique Hotel (a Marriott to be built at the entrance to town), was generously provided a waiver to 6 stories.

Doesn’t Ketchum have a lot of tax credit subsidized Community Housing?

No.  The only project to date with tax credit subsidies is Northwoods Place. Ketchum, given its extreme wealth compared to other Idaho cities, does not score well for prioritization of tax credits.  Tax credits for Bluebird were only secured after the City and its affiliates committed $2 million of taxpayer funds, plus a free site worth roughly $5 million.  The developer is including family-sized apartments despite anticipating only single adults living in Bluebird.  

What is the KCDC?

Per the City, the Ketchum Community Development Corporation is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization formed by Ketchum community members. View their website HERE.
 
However, the KCDC defines itself a bit differently on its website:


"The Ketchum Community Development Corporation (KCDC) is a 501c(3) non¬profit organization formed by the leaders of the City of Ketchum in July 2006 as part of an overall revitalization plan that also included a Downtown Master Planning exercise and the formation of the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency (KURA).

To enhance our vibrant community and quality of life by leveraging public and private resources to foster economic, cultural, and environmental sustainability.


Complete projects with a focus on Affordable Workforce Housing, Town Design and Infrastructure, Economic Development and Sustainable Energy.

 

The KCDC’s mission is to implement and manage strategic programs necessary to:
 

• Support Ketchum Downtown revitalization as defined in the Downtown Master Plan


• Create adequate affordable workforce housing in collaboration with the City of Ketchum, KURA and other appropriate entities


• Facilitate sustainable community development practices via adoption of leading edge alternative energy systems, technology and environmental management practices 
 

• Attract a variety of resources to support mission-oriented programming and collaborate as appropriate with other community development entities in this process
 

• Build partnerships with government and other appropriate organizations to accomplish common goals
 

• Engage and educate citizens actively in the accomplishment of these goals


The KCDC will work collaboratively with the City of Ketchum, KURA and other appropriate agencies to address Downtown Master Plan priorities. With affordable workforce housing as a primary responsibility, KCDC will acquire land (and/or land rights) as appropriate to accomplish this mission."
 

Why is KCDC a concern?

Despite its name, only one of the standing officers of KCDC is a Ketchum resident.
 

It is partly funded by Ketchum taxpayers.  The City Council votes on how much to fund it. However, the KCDC is not accountable to the taxpayers or residents or voters of Ketchum.  It self-selects its own officers.  


The KCDC was not current in its state filings.  It brought its filings up to date in November 2020 when Bluebird was awarded the tax credits. 
 

It appears like the KCDC is a bit of a shell non-profit corporation that fronts for a for-profit developer, GMD. 


According to its Federal filings, its officers work only 8 hours per month (collectively) on KCDC business.   


Its substantial activities are Northwoods Place (a GMD development) and now Bluebird (a GMD development). 


Prior to his election as Mayor, Neil Bradshaw was the executive director of KCDC.
The Downtown Master Plan is no longer in force.  It was superseded by the Comprehensive Plan of 2014.

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