John Sofro studied the 250 movers and shakers gathered in the Limelight Room of the Sun Valley Inn.
Then he lowered the boom.
“There is a solution to the problems we’re talking about,” he addressed those who had come together to talk about affording housing for low and middle-income wage earners.
“We’ve concluded (affordable housing) is absolutely needed, but there’s no political will to do it. We have the resources and undeveloped land to do it if there’s political will to do it,” he said.
Sofro encouraged listeners to lean on government officials if they truly want to find solutions. “Or, say, ‘Stop wasting time on these issues. We don’t want more people here so let’s move on.’ ”
Sofro, who once championed a town full of affordable homes south of Timmerman Hill and a housing project south of St. Luke’s Hospital, was among several panelists who addressed the 5th Annual Economic Summit organized this week by Sun Valley Economic Development (SVED).
“There have been 12 to 18 projects that might have pumped $325 million into the local economy and provided 150 residential units that failed in the past several years,” said Dave Patrie of the Blaine County Housing Authority. “Some failed because they were not supported by the people in community,” he added.
Patrie noted that one company has expressed interest in moving 150 workers to Sun Valley but there is no housing for them.
“Our vacancy is probably 2 percent right now,” he said.
The Blaine County School District pays some of the highest starting wages–$41,000–of any school district in Idaho. But many of those teachers can’t afford a single-family home in the Wood River Valley, Assistant Superintendent John Blackman told the audience.