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KTVB: New program helps Blaine County workers afford homes

By December 26, 2023News

‘We couldn’t have done it without this’: New program helps Blaine County workers afford homes

The median home price in Hailey is $731,000, a 12% increase from last year. The program has helped two families buy a house since it started about two months ago.

Author: Abby Davis
Published: 10:57 PM MST December 21, 2023
Updated: 10:57 PM MST December 21, 2023

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BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho — After closing on their house in Hailey on Dec. 14, Kevin Baker and his wife, Meredith, are busy with renovations.

But earlier this year, the couple was unsure they could afford a house in the area.

“Everything was out of our price range, and it seemed like there was no hope,” Kevin said.

Until they learned about the Locals Only Ownership Program, which helps Blaine County workers buy a house in Hailey. The City of Hailey and ARCH Community Housing Trust started the program about two months ago.

ARCH Executive Director Michelle Griffith said they have helped Kevin and Meredith and one other family buy a home so far. After someone picks out a house, the city gives ARCH 20% of the purchase price.

“So, if it’s a $100,000 house, the City of Hailey gives ARCH $20,000. We use that as a zero-interest deferred second loan on the house, which means the home buyer doesn’t have to pay anything back until they sell the house in the future,” Griffith said. “It effectively reduces their first mortgage.”

Anna Mathieu, Windermere Sun Valley realtor, said it is difficult for people to work and live in Blaine County. She helped Kevin and Meredith find their home.

The median home price in Hailey is $731,000, a 12% increase from last year’s median, Mathieu said. Not only are prices out of many people’s budgets, but there simply are not a lot of options.

She said there were seven three-bedroom, two-bathroom houses under $1 million in Hailey and 13 in the county as of Thursday.

“That’s not very many,” Mathieu said.

Kevin, a Blaine County School District behavior specialist, said he thinks the program is the only way for the working class to stay in the valley. If not for the program, he and Meredith — who works in video production — would have likely had to move.

“I believe we closed on the house at 550 [thousand],” he said. “Meredith had sold a condo, so we had a little bit extra for a down payment. Even with that down payment, we couldn’t have done it without the ARCH program.”

There is only one requirement for the program — people applying need to work mostly in Blaine County. Griffith said those applicants must also be prequalified, meaning they need a letter from a lender showing they can qualify for a mortgage.

Once a house is purchased through the program, Griffith said a deed restriction ensures future owners must also work in Blaine County.

There is already a waitlist, Griffith said. But she encouraged people who are interested to reach out to ARCH. If the locals-only program is not the best fit, other opportunities might be available — including affordable rentals.