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Ketchum Gathers For Affordable Housing Demonstration

A spread-out crowd sits in a plaza in downtown in Ketchum to hear people speak about affordable housing challenges.
Rachel Cohen
/
Boise State Public Radio
More than 100 people gathered in downtown Ketchum Saturday for a peaceful demonstration in support of affordable housing.

More than 100 people gathered in downtown Ketchum Saturday for a peaceful demonstration in support of affordable housing.

For about two hours, people shared housing stories of their own, and of their friends and colleagues, and held signs saying, “People who work here should be able to live here!” and “Keep Ketchum Ketchum! Fund Affordable Housing!”

Housing prices have skyrocketed in the resort community during the pandemic while supply has dwindled.

Krzysztof Gilarowski, a front desk manager at the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, organized the event.

“In the five years I’ve lived here, it just keeps getting tougher and tougher, and I decided to do something about it,” he said.

He said he was, in part, inspired to hold the event because more and more coworkers have been forced to move away because they couldn’t find places to live. One recently had to relocate to Mountain Home and ended up getting a job in Boise instead of making the roughly two-hour commute to Ketchum.

“You can’t have a town where you recycle people, where every five months you hire new people,” he said. “We need a solution for people where they have housing they won’t get kicked out of.”

On the surface, the goal of the Gilarowski’s organizing was to bring people together in support of one proposed affordable housing project: Bluebird Village. The project would put 56 affordable apartments where the the current city hall is now. It's going through the Planning and Zoning Commission approval process, where opponents have been vocal.

In between community members sharing their stories, Gilarowski would tell people how to participate in those city meetings to make their voices heard.

But much of the focus Saturday was on the housing crisis beyond Bluebird Village. The speakers pointed out it's just one project and there is need now, not next year or the year after that when the apartments could become available.

Many service industry workers spoke and highlighted the urgency of the issue. They mentioned friends living in vehicles because they can’t find anywhere else to live.

Reid Stillman, who grew up in Ketchum and helped run the event, said the 500-square-foot apartment he is renting recently sold for $420,000. He said he has to move out by September and doesn’t know where he’ll go.

Gilarowski said he was impressed by the turnout and that there was a sense that the conversation is changing. One Ketchum City Council member who was at the demonstration agreed.

“This has been one the top issues of this community since the 80s, certainly,” Michael David said, “and yet, we’ve never had something like this,” referring to the demonstration. “We’ve never had the lip service move beyond into action.”

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