By Emily Erickson
In my most recent article, I doled out “5-Star” reviews of the people and businesses that make this community great. I applauded the organizations and institutions that fill our little town with personality, vibrancy and heart. This week, it’s only natural that I flip the coin and swing to the other side of the spectrum. This week, I’m handing out the “barbs” to my “bouquets”: 1-Star reviews.
My first 1 Star is for the landlords unnecessarily doubling rents, terminating contracts, and evicting long-established people and businesses for no reason other than cashing in on the gold rush of our current population boom.
Sure, our supply is tight relative to demand when it comes to housing and commercial spaces, but the abrupt and extreme manner with which some owners are reacting to that increased demand can only be explained by short-sighted greed. Pushing out neighbors and friends, stepping on the heads of community peers in an attempt to reach a higher rung on the economic ladder and recklessly making choices that impact people’s ability to live and support themselves, is senseless and cruel.
Rob Hart, executive director of Bonner Community Housing Authority, provided “three easy steps” for people to lead with intention and take back their power as it relates to the current buying, selling, building and renting craze.
He explained: “Step No. 1: Landowners, please do not sell land to speculators and investors. Please try to sell land to developers and builders who agree to follow step No. 2 or to local employees, seniors and the disabled who do not have an annual income greater than half of the home price.
“Step No. 2: Developers and builders, please try not to sell homes to investors and speculators. Please try to sell homes to local employees, seniors and the disabled who do not have an annual income greater than half of the home price, and Step No. 3: Real estate agents and sellers, please try not to sell homes to investors and speculators. Please try to sell homes to local employees, seniors and the disabled who do not have an annual income greater than half of the home price.”
Finally, I’ll add my own Step No. 4: Existing landlords, please don’t take your lead from the speculators, investors and developers who are treating people like resources to be mined for all they’re worth.
While on the subject, my next 1-Star review goes to the developers blazing through the region, grabbing every piece of land like it’s our problem that the market may cool if we pause to consider the long-term impact their choices may have on our community. Development is inevitable and often a good and necessary thing when intentional and considered. But careless development and growth for growth’s sake can have serious, irreparable consequences.
Jason Welker, chairman of the Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commission, said it well recently when talking about a new land development project, stating, “I’d say let’s slow down a little bit and make sure we do it right so that this 25 acres, which as far as I can tell is one of the last largest undeveloped parcels in all of Sandpoint, does provide housing that meets the needs of our community — not just the urgency from the developer to cash in while the market’s hot or the demand from potential buyers.”
Another 1 Star goes to any local politician running on an agenda that doesn’t have anything to do with the position for which they’re trying to be elected. Running for office should be an act of service — a promise to the community that you are not only a good fit for the job, but that you’re willing to do the work of continually listening and learning to represent the needs of your community, specifically as they relate to your elected role.
My final 1 Star, before hopping off my soapbox, goes to any recent North Idaho transplants calling themselves a “political refugee.” A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. They are people literally fleeing political unrest, instability, violence, poverty, destruction and hunger — all of which are life threatening.
Leaving your last town because there were too many people across the political aisle from you does not make you a refugee, and wanting to live in a place where everyone looks, thinks and acts exactly like you is sad and weird. Don’t. Just, don’t.
Emily Erickson is a writer and business owner with an affinity for black coffee and playing in the mountains. Connect with her online at www.bigbluehat.studio.
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