Letter

The Loss of Rental (Affordable) Housing for Locals

Local governments seem to be doing nothing to analyze this growing housing crisis

By Patrick Copeland Malone

Sadly, and significantly, local residents can no longer find or afford to live near where they work or play as local property owners are rapidly converting long-term housing to short-term rentals through such programs as Airbnb and VRBO. Local governments seem to be doing nothing to analyze this growing housing crisis. 

Appearing to satisfy the wants and needs of property owners over renters, local governments are issuing conditional use permits for more and more short-term housing with little to no understanding either of the rental housing market, the needs of local employers, or the existing availability of short-term rental housing such as through larger (and non-government permitted) housing complexes like local timeshare properties.

Here is just one example from a local friend who is reaching out to neighbors in her unplanned housing search: “Hello friends, I was given a 38-day notice to find a new place by June 15. The owners are switching to an Airbnb rental system. I am a very responsible woman in my early 60s. A previous homeowner, with no pets, do not smoke, I am respectful of personal space and I work on Zoom from home.”

I am sure we have all heard of family and friends facing similar challenges. Another dimension to this crisis is the fact that most of the larger, local employers cannot find safe, decent, and affordable housing for their employees. I know of at least three major employers today who cannot fill job openings because workers cannot find affordable housing on a $10-per-hour wage! This reality is driving millions of dollars of income from our community as businesses operate significantly below capacity. So why do we act as though unknown guests from New Jersey are more important than our own local kids, neighbors, co-workers, and church members when it comes to affordable and stable long-term rental housing?

Patrick Copeland Malone
Columbia Falls

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