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Worker housing one hot topic Monday

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | July 24, 2021 1:00 AM

Members of the Regional Housing & Growth Issues Partnership will review ongoing studies on regional and local worker housing during the group's fourth advisory meeting, Monday at 3 p.m.

Regional planners, elected representatives, administrators, organizations and community groups formed the partnership in early 2021 to address the hottest topic in Kootenai County: growth.

Divided into two bodies — the working and advisory groups — participants aim to use public input and data to provide education and offer ideas to better the county at large.

"Our goal is to put together a tool kit," said Kiki Miller, a proponent of the partnership and Coeur d'Alene City Councilwoman. "We know we need to do something, and here are the tools to do it."

Two University of Idaho professors, Steven Peterson and Tim Nadreau, are taking a stab at assessing trends in regional housing through a study funded by the Panhandle Affordable Housing Alliance and Coeur d'Alene Economic Development Council.

The study plans to analyze and define the current market and forecasts future variables weighing housing opportunities in Kootenai and Shoshone counties. Information gathering began in early June, and assessment contributors hope to publish the study by September's end.

"Because the Regional Housing & Growth Issues Partnership was already in place, (the UI professors) were able to do a huge amount of cooperative work that they normally wouldn't have had," Miller said.

Specific items anticipated in the assessment are:

• Land availability and inventory within and outside city boundaries

• Local pricing trends

• Local ownership percentages

• Types of available housing

• Products in the process of production

• Population needs

The H & G Partnership has dug into local worker housing as a long-term effort to bring forward possible recommendations for regional jurisdictions. Initial work on what is capable under Idaho statutes and municipal codes are currently underway, according to an H & G Partnership news release.

Ongoing discussions as part of the study are:

• Re-examination of short-term rental codes

• Limited equity cooperatives

• Building a local housing policy framework

• Developing a local housing organization or authority

• Identifying what is currently available to organizations to aid housing inventory retention

"There are a dozen different items that are ongoing efforts to find out what can successfully be utilized and brought forward to elected officials or other organizations that could be implemented here," Miller said. "This is the first glance at what changes are going to be successful."

During the last working group meeting on July 12, representatives from Kootenai County, the seven largest cities and KMPO almost unanimously expressed through a survey that local worker housing was their top priority.

"I believe the working group sees this next priority item as critical but a daunting task," Miller said. "The local housing issues are vast and have so many variables. I think the group realizes we're going to have to be committed to a very long-term effort to have successful solutions."

A document with research and possible next steps for preserving open space on the Rathdrum Prairie will also be presented Monday, Miller said.

Further results of the exit survey, submitted by individuals who attended the H & G Partnership advisory group discussion on June 26, will be shared Monday.

The H & G Partnership meets monthly. All meetings are recorded and published alongside FAQs, group rosters, agendas, and other associated links at:https://bit.ly/3y16LGx

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Miller