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Community talks housing solutions

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | June 10, 2022 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — Workforce housing is a community problem. Likewise, the solutions will also be found within the community.

Ideas, challenges, and solutions were thrown around at a Thursday workshop sponsored by the Kaniksu Land Trust and Project 7B as part of an effort to address the area’s struggle when it comes to workforce housing.

"Wicked challenges are not solved alone," said Elizabeth Wargo, University of Idaho assistant professor, at Thursday’s workshop. “The work I hear these folks talking about is the future preservation of our communities."

Wargo was referring to a panel of individuals from Ponderay city officials, Kaniksu Land Trust, and others.

Approximately 50 people gathered at the Columbia Bank Center to gather information, ask questions, and brainstorm potential solutions to the housing shortage the Sandpoint area is experiencing.

A dominant topic discussed at Thursday’s workshop detailed the workings of a community land trust.

“We have to think about the integrity of our communities. We have to create alternatives to make that happen,” said Michael Brown, executive director of Headwaters Community Housing Trust, based out of Bozeman, Mont. “What we’re doing here is we are creating landmark housing that is invested from public sector and private sector resources and placing that in trust for the long-term benefit of the community.”

Although there are other forms of land trusts, in a community land trust, the land is owned by the trust itself, but allows homeowners to own the structure on top of the land outright. At the point of sale, the land is leased to the homeowner on a 99-year renewable, and inheritable, lease.

There is a fixed appreciation value on homes within land trusts, this allows homes to remain affordable for the future buyer of the home.

“I was taken by this idea that if we own the land as a community, then we can protect that as an asset for the benefit of the community,” Brown said. “What I have been able to see again and again is that transformative impact of putting people into home ownership that otherwise would not have been able to afford it, and seeing them blossom, and seeing the community embrace that.”

A series of breakout sessions followed Brown’s presentation. Groups of five brainstormed potential solutions, challenges, and ideas that housing solutions could look like in the Sandpoint area.

Kaniksu Land Trust plans on taking information from Thursday’s meeting and expanding upon it for future discussions.

“I hope we can continue these kinds of events because there's more than one way to solve the problem,” said Carol Curtis with Project 7B.

The organizations and groups present at Thursday’s workshop gathered with the intention to start a conversation about housing in the community — a conversation that is still ongoing.

Kaniksu Land Trust and Project 7B are seeking public input on ideas, and potential paths forward regarding housing and residential solutions in Bonner County. Project 7B can be reached through their Facebook page or online at Project7B.org. Kaniksu Land Trust can be contacted via email at info@kaniksu.org, or by visiting their office at 1215 Michigan St., Suite A, in Sandpoint.

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Photo by ANNISA KEITH

Elizabeth Wargo, Univeristy of Idaho assistant professor, left, instructs a full room of participants on how to document their brainstorming sessions during a workshop hosted by Kaniksu Land Trust and Project 7B on June 9 at the Columbia Bank Center. Also pictured is Katie Cox, center, executive director of Kaniksu Land Trust, and Michael Brown, left, executive director of Headwaters Community Housing Trust, based out of Bozeman, Mont.

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Photo by ANNISA KEITH

A full room of participants took part in a brainstorming session during a workshop on workforce housing solutions hosted by Kaniksu Land Trust and Project 7B on June 9 at the Columbia Bank Center. Information generated by the brainstorming session will be curated and utilized at future discussions and meetings.

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