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EDITORIAL: Let's build bridges, one unit at a time

| August 7, 2022 1:00 AM

With affordable home ownership far beyond the reach of so many here, small steps in the right direction could eventually lead to bigger leaps.

Jim Brennan understands that, but so do a lot of other people. The difference is, Brennan and business partner Brenny Ross are willing to sacrifice some profit to make small steps happen in Hayden.

Brennan, owner and president of Cornerstone Inc. Custom Homes, received unanimous approval last week from the Hayden Planning and Zoning Commission for a condominium project on Hayden Avenue. But he accomplished more than that, inspiring a full-throated cheer from anyone who laments what’s happening in the local housing market.

“I … find it very sad that the only people that can move here now are those who are outsiders, those who aren’t raised in this county, those who came from California, Washington and other areas, that they're the only ones that seem to be able to buy in this area, and it really breaks my heart," Brennan said, speaking for many.

With Ross, Brennan is proposing to build 56 townhome-style condos, with 11 or so reserved for hardworking locals earning 80% of the median wage. These include teachers, police, hospitality workers — basically, the lifeblood of the community, many of them in the early stages of raising families.

Hayden City Council Member Ed DePriest is correct in pushing for projects that truly are “affordable,” and if the qualifying range is $23-$30/hour, the field of candidates might be painfully slim.

But you have to start somewhere. In addition to Hayden P&Z’s unanimous support, the project — called The Bridge — is being lauded by the Panhandle Affordable Housing Alliance and the Regional Housing and Growth Issues Partnership. Both groups are dedicated to building more bridges that will connect hardworking Kootenai County residents with roofs over their heads that they can call their own.

Retirees flocking to North Idaho from elsewhere bring many advantages, but they also stress communities’ resources while elevating housing prices. Talk to just about any employer and you’ll hear the same story: We have openings for qualified locals or outside workers, but the lack of affordable housing is a deal killer. And that hurts everyone.

The Bridge won’t solve Hayden’s or Kootenai County’s housing crisis overnight, but it could mean the world to 11 homeowners. Build enough Bridge-like projects and you can make a huge, positive impact on the region.

The Press applauds Brennan and Ross and encourages the Hayden City Council to approve The Bridge.

Maybe other builders and developers will see how they might become a bigger part of the solution.

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