By Brom Glidden
Sandpoint is in a period of change and there isn’t anyone we can point the finger at. Life is complex and this situation is no different. There are many facets to this. I’m going to do my best to present a collection of connected concepts into a coherent observation. Here we go:
COVID has changed how businesses operate. They have played with the idea of people working from home in order to adapt to the recent pandemic. This isn’t a bad thing. Businesses evolve and, when COVID created challenges, they adapted. People normally work close to their homes so many of the workers stayed in metropolitan areas. Now they are able to work from home, they have options for selecting where they want to live. Also, living wages tend to be a bit higher in urban areas, but so is the cost of living so the system kind of balances itself out.
Back in the day before we had the internet, it was easier to keep Sandpoint a secret. Now, almost everyone walks around with a smartphone in their pocket. We live in an age when we can disseminate information quickly and share pictures. Sandpoint and the surrounding area is gorgeous. People can take pictures of the area and share them online. We aren’t a secret anymore and people admire the area just like we do. I can’t hold that against them.
We had a housing bubble back around 2006 due to banks engaging in predatory lending. That’s not what’s currently happening. They are able to offer loans at lower rates and I doubt this will go away. We aren’t facing another housing bubble, so we can’t depend on the bubble bursting and things going back to normal.
Because the area we live in is amazing, people want to live here. That’s the American dream, right? Work hard and carve out a small piece of land for you and yours. Because there are people who make more money in urban areas and suddenly have the ability to travel, they have the right to make offers on local property. We can’t blame others for wanting to be in such a wonderful area, too.
Local landlords/property owners
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, or simply want to move away, you will obviously sell your property. It is seemingly common sense that you’ll accept the highest offer. You want what’s good for you and yours and so it makes sense to make money on what you own and worked hard for, too.
When a few locals sold for high prices, that created ripple effects. That raised the perceived value of the surrounding area. As a natural result, property taxes increased, as well. Now landlords are forced to pass that increase along to their renters in order to effectively keep renting out their properties. They need to make an income and be able to pay all applicable fees, as well as generate more money in case the property needs repairs (an inevitability for all property owners). I don’t see the majority of landlords as being “greedy,” rather just attempting to adjust to the changing local climate.
People are always going to prioritize their basic needs: food, water, shelter, clothing (a.k.a., their homeostasis). If they can’t get those needs met, they will move.
Because the cost of housing has risen, it is hard for entry-level employees to find affordable housing. We have low-income and high-income options, but I don’t see hardly anything in the way of a transition once you leave the government-aided low-income housing options.
I doubt the majority of people are lazy, which is often another thing I hear. I suspect that most of them are faced with the hard choice of limiting their work contributions in order to maintain low-income housing, which requires they not cross a certain income threshold. If they do, what are their options for housing? If they have no place to live, they move out of the area or stop working to gain access to housing again.
It’s an unfortunate cycle, but the system is rigged against their ability to use it as intended (as a stepping stone out of poverty).
Many entry-level employees move out of the area since our current economy doesn’t afford them a place to live, even if they have a full-time job as well as a part-time second job. The struggle to afford rent, utilities and food is growing more and more challenging.
Because it’s harder to find entry-level employees, employers have only one tool in the tool box: offer higher wages to attract workers. When they do this, they still need to make a profit on their goods, so the cost of paying workers more is ultimately passed on to the consumer, thus raising the cost of living. This is why raising the minimum wage doesn’t really work.
Weather won’t save us
People from outside of the area are largely unaffected by the cold. Many express the hopes that the cold winters will drive them away. The people moving here likely have enough money to have a second home in many instances, and are able to be the proverbial “snowbirds.”
If you take a holistic view of the situation, we are in an irreversible period of change. I imagine that this is kind of what it must have felt like to be in the carriage building business around the time that automobiles were becoming more popular.
I want to be wrong. Please let me know if there is anything I’m not seeing that can help us retain our local identity. I have a limited understanding and am by no means an expert. I am, however, a native who loves our town. I too struggle with change. I also recognize that there is only one constant in this world: change. Everything is always changing, whether we like it or not.
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