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Forced Out: One Wood River Valley Woman's Housing Story

Kate Riley stands on her porch
Rachel Cohen
Kate Riley stands on the porch of her old apartment in Hailey.

Kate Riley of Hailey testified at a Ketchum City Council meeting in June, advocating for affordable housing solutions.

"We desperately need an immediate situation,” she said during the council meeting.

The next morning, Riley's landlord sent her an email, notifying her that she'd have to move out of her apartment in 30 days. The owner had sold the property where Riley had lived in a one-bedroom garage apartment for 19 months. She had nowhere to go.

“I never thought I’d be in this situation my whole life," she said last week as she was packing up her things. "I’m not homeless, but I was looking at that, I have to admit. Every day I was asking, where am I going to go.”

Riley moved to the Wood River Valley eight years ago to be with her mom before she died. Then she decided to stay instead of going back to Boise.

"It feels like a very different community now than it did eight years ago," she said.

Housing costs have gone up and have forced service workers out. Riley said they're the thread that holds the community together. She knows her story is not unique.

“I have friends I hear from everyday that have just been evicted," she said.

The Blaine County Housing Authority even passed a resolution this spring, asking landlords to treat their tenants fairly.

"Blaine County has been additionally affected by an unprecedented disruption of its already stressed housing market due to the influx of new residents of means," the resolution states, "spiking the demand for ownership and rental properties and causing home prices and rents to skyrocket to levels that are unsustainable to the current full-time working residents of Blaine County."

Riley said despite the initial difficulty of her search, she got really lucky. A friend offered her a bedroom in Hailey for a few months.

“We’ve been friends for a long time and when he learned of my situation, he just opened his heart and said, ‘move up here,’ and that’s what I’m doing," she said.

For now it means she can remain a caregiver for the 95-year-old woman she’s been working with for four years.

This week, she packed up her stuff — a full library, lots artwork and a collection of family photos — to put in a storage unit.

"I can't bring myself to put these things that are sacred to me in storage — it's weird," she said. But she can only bring a limited amount of her belongings with her to the bedroom she's staying in.

As she moves across town, Riley said she’s grateful to have had the 19 months in her old apartment by the river. She spent the pandemic there and got a lot of writing done for a book.

"I've been thanking my apartment ever since I got the notice," she said. "Because I loved it here."

Still, her new housing situation is temporary, and she doesn’t know where she’ll go after.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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