Wednesday, December 08, 2021

The yin and yang of Bonner County housing

by PAUL GRAVES Contributing Writer
| November 20, 2021 1:00 AM

Most of us are visually familiar with the symbol called “yin yang”. To me, it looks like a white tear drop spooning with a black tear drop. Yin yang comes from ancient Chinese philosophy to depict the concept of dualism.

It embodies how seemingly opposite/contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, even interdependent. Usually, the black and white of “dualism” stand separate from each other. Yin/yang’s black and white are cuddling.

Hmm, perhaps our “either-or” attitudes are a figment of human imagination. Perhaps all things are more connected than we prefer them to be. Maybe yin and yang means more than we normally think it does!

Be patient with me. This little philosophy lesson has a practical point. Here it is!

Yin and yang have also been described as “crisis/opportunity”. As I’ve heard, and taken part in, many local conversations about the housing situation in Bonner County, it’s hard to describe the lack of affordable housing as anything but a crisis, let alone an opportunity.

Yes, housing in our county is at a critical point, where many people cannot afford to live here. And if they work and still can’t afford to live here, they may need to move elsewhere. And that certainly cuts down on the people available to work in Bonner County. That’s a crisis to most of us!

So where’s the opportunity in this? Perhaps it can be found in people finally taking seriously the challenges we face to find ways for lower- and middle-income people to be able live in our area. This housing choke-point has been predictably coming for at least 15-20 years.

We can point fingers at various community leaders for “kicking the can down the road”; or we can respond to responsible calls to learn what’s involved in solving the housing yin/yang. But maybe we can even offer to somehow, in some small way, contribute our energy to being part of those multiple solutions.

I hope that next Tuesday’s Geezer Forum will be one of those small efforts toward finding solutions! On Nov. 23, we will again gather in the Columbia Bank’s Community Room, 2:30-4:00 for a different kind of Geezer Forum. We’re looking at “The Housing Yin/Yang of Bonner County” through the information shared by 5 community leaders already involved in looking for solutions.

Our panel members are: Nate Rench, board president of the Bonner Community Housing Agency; Nancy Hadley, a land developer; Nancy Gow, Bonner County Assessor; Mary Fraser, a local realtor; and Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

Together, they will seek to give us an overview of the housing yin/yang in Bonner County, and respond to our questions and comments about how our housing issues impact us. We’ll learn about some current housing developments, some financial realities about the apparent out-of-control prices of home ownership and rental, plus the workforce housing task force just begun by the city of Sandpoint.

Personally, I hope this forum will be a small part of a larger, ongoing conversation in our county about how we are all in this housing yin/yang together. We need places to responsibly bring our real concerns and fears. Maybe next Tuesday’s Geezer Forum will be one of those places. Please join us at 2:30-4 p.m. on Nov. 23, Community Room in Columbia Bank.

Paul Graves, M.Div., is lead geezer-in-training for Elder Advocates, a consulting ministry on aging issues. Contact Paul at 208-610-4971 or