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Long-term rental incentive program could be coming to Ketchum

A presentation slide showing the "Lease to Locals" logo alongside the logos of the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley, as well as Blaine County.
Landing Locals
Landing Locals presented its 'Lease to Locals' program in Wood River Valley municipalities this week.

A ballot measure in Ketchum to increase the local option tax for workforce housing failed to get enough support in the May election. Now, city leaders are turning their attention to other solutions to the housing shortage.

One initiative at the top of the city’s list is called Lease to Locals, an incentive program that started in Truckee, California, two years ago.

Colin Frolich, the CEO of the Landing Locals, which started the program, is in Blaine County this week, talking with public officials and stakeholders.

Frolich said he and his wife Kai — the Co-Founder of the company and its Chief Impact Officer — used to visit Truckee, where they live now, as tourists from San Francisco. Until they moved there, they didn’t fully understand the housing crisis. For the past few years, they’ve been focused on the solutions to mountain resort communities’ housing challenges.

The objective of Lease to Locals, Frolich said, is to convert existing housing units, ones that are being used for vacation rentals or are sitting empty most of the year as second homes, to new long-term rentals for the local workforce.

“We do that by providing the property owners one-time cash incentives on top of the rent they collect for converting those properties,” Frolich said during an information session in Ketchum on Thursday.

The funds come from local government budgets and sometimes employers.

In Truckee, an owner renting to two local employees for a year got $9,000. Renting to one employee for 11 months or fewer made an owner $2,000. But, they’re just one-time payments.

“So, we’re a piece of the puzzle, but not the entire solution,” Frolich said.

Still, as that pilot was nearing the one-year mark, 80% of participants continued renting to locals, even with no added incentive. The program opened up rentals for 112 people in Truckee over the first year and a half for an average rent of $1,051 per bedroom.

Now, Lease to Locals is in four – soon to be five – resort communities in California and Colorado.

“We've had 40-plus tourist towns reach out to us in the last year,” Frolich said, ranging from tiny lake towns in Michigan to big cities like Austin, Texas.

As a small company, Landing Locals doesn’t have the capacity to go everywhere at once, but Ketchum is high on its list as a next destination.

If the city council chooses to sign off on the $500,000 investment in July, the program could come to Ketchum this fall.

The city describes this program as a quick and effective solution, citing that when it came to Summit County, Colorado, home to Breckenridge, it opened up 30 units for locals in the first 45 days.

Lease to Locals was also a program listed in the city’s housing action plan the council signed off on in May.

There are some factors Landing Locals will discuss with local stakeholders to mold the program to the specific needs of the Wood River Valley.

For example, it would want to know what type of housing units to target: short-term rentals, empty second homes, private rooms or a mix.

It would also want to develop an incentive structure and lease length guidelines that work for renters and local property owners. And it would want to define who compromises the local “workforce” the program would be serving.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.