Why This Agency Formed
When this agency was formed, as is it true of several resort lifestyle communities in Idaho, Bonner County, and in particular the greater Sandpoint area (which includes the cities of Ponderay, Kootenai and Dover), saw a dramatic spike from 2004 through 2007 in secondary home construction and speculative house construction in general. That spike produced of course a dramatic increase in land costs (and hence housing costs) and a construction boom which resulted in an equally dramatic decrease in the area’s un-employment rate, from our many decade’s long norm of 9+ percent to less than 4 percent.
There are other economic factors at play in our community which do differentiate us, for example, from sister cities in Idaho of Driggs or McCall or Hailey. Through good fortune, the greater Sandpoint area has seen in the last ten years the development of a strong manufacturing base.
This manufacturing base, coupled with our service based, tourist industry and other non-farm related industries is growing and showing no signs, even in light of the national recession, of slowing down. Idaho Employment’s Newsletter of January 2008 summarizes the situation:
Bonner County is a model of successful economic development. It continued to grow and diversify its job base in 2007. Non-farm payroll jobs grew another 3 percent from 14,640 in 2006 to 15,120. The county solidified the gains it made in 2004 and 2005 when it grew nearly twice as fast. Its unemployment rate fell to an all-time low of 3.3 percent from 4.5 percent in 2006. The county’s population grew from 41,275 in 2006 to 41,800.
We have been a model of the simple law of supply and demand. Unlike the Coeur d’Alene area 45 miles south of us, also booming in employment, which has the land area to expand and sprawl out its housing developments, the greater Sandpoint area is locked in tighter by the lake and surrounding mountains. Thus, our area median house price—which fluctuates between $245,000 and $265,000—has been ten to fifteen thousands of dollars higher than the area median house price in Coeur d’Alene. Low supply and high demand make land costs higher and thus housing more costly.
Were wages and household income rising proportionately with increased housing prices of course we would not be concerned. But, as Idaho’s Job Service attests, area wages, though better compared to the past, are still not consonant with the cost of housing. Our area median income is approximately $44,500. According to the BBC Research Housing Report (2006-2007), only 8% of Bonner County residents could afford to purchase the averaged priced house in the greater Sandpoint area and only 10% could afford the median sale price.
The BBC researchers did a survey of area employers and asked them “how the changes in the housing market during the past five years [had] affected their ability to recruit workforce. The vast majority of employers—85 percent—said the changing market has affected their ability to recruit workforce negatively or very negatively…” More recently, individual employers and members of the aforementioned Employers’ Assisted Housing Committee substantiated that negative outlook with their own internal surveys.