EDITORIAL: Pathway to paradise, one step at a time
Paradise is a matter of perspective.
Talk to the couple at the table next to you and you’re likely to hear the truth:
North Idaho is a slice of heaven, with everything anyone could want. Great health care. Vibrant economy. Amenities far beyond what similar-sized communities might expect.
But talk to your server and you might hear a completely different truth:
North Idaho is a slice of heaven, but not for everyone. For many, no health insurance means limited access to that health care oasis. Improving wages that don’t nearly keep up with the average monthly rent of $1,580. Amenities far beyond the financial reach of thousands of hardworking residents, many of whom deliver that slice of heaven to the rest of us.
Two big projects that would substantially narrow the gap between these truths are emerging, and both hold great promise. The region’s national Tech Hub designation could end up providing a wealth of good jobs with great businesses, and we’ll address that next week.
The other is work being done by Greta Gissel, the dynamic executive director of the nonprofit Connect Kootenai (connectkootenai.org). A new Connect Kootenai report offers startling evidence of the gap on a communitywide basis:
The lack of affordable housing has resulted in a loss of 5,340 jobs in the local economy; a reduction of $535 million in gross regional product; a loss of $435 million in local payroll and $28 million in total lost taxes. On a much more personal level, 45% of all Kootenai County residents could not afford that $1,580 average monthly rent.
An illness so advanced is not going to be cured with one pill, but a battery of remedies would go a long way in restoring overall health. One of Kootenai Connect’s front-burner projects is expanding affordable housing by offering existing homeowners free plans for additional dwellings on their property.
Kootenai Connect is requesting designs for ADUs — Accessory Dwelling Units — submitted by builders. The designs should provide up to 800 square feet of living space, detached from the main home, that comply with local building and construction codes. The deadline is Nov. 20 and winning designs will be announced in mid-December.
“Winning proposals will help provide housing solutions for local workers, seniors, college students and provide multigenerational housing options and income opportunities for county residents,” Gissel told The Press.
An aggressive ADU program coupled with more households renting out rooms would go a long way toward creating a broader paradise without the need for as much high-density housing. Now, who could object to that?