What happens if the workers cannot find accommodation?

Once upon a time in Ketchum, Idaho, workers at the nearby resort town of Sun Valley could find a home. The proximity to the glamor of a world-class attraction made it easy to travel for employees of restaurants, hotels, and resorts, as well as any workers who weren’t wealthy.

The weather is changing. These days, the Wall Street Journal reported, the cost of living in Ketchum has left many workers in situations that meet the functional definition of homelessness.

The Idaho city council last week passed an emergency ordinance allowing people to live in recreational vehicles. Tent towns and short-term rental limits were also discussed.

“If you live in Ketchum, there’s no shortage of work. There is just a dearth of places you can live, ”a worker with two jobs told the Journal. He lives in an SUV parked in a nearby state forest.

“Like many Western cities whose economies are built around tourism,” the Journal reported, “Ketchum is facing a cascading housing crisis caused by a rush of new residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, growing demand workers during the economic boom that followed, and a shortage of affordable housing that lasted for years.

Seems familiar? Sonoma County isn’t like Ketchum, at least not yet. But it’s not too early for business and community leaders to start worrying. As we begin to understand how the pandemic has changed our world, we are already hearing stories of begging jobs.

Housing is scarce, and the gulf between those who make the beds and those paying $ 700 (and more) a night for a hotel room becomes the testament to a society increasingly defined by economic inequality. We live in a place with multi-million dollar estates and several families sharing the same run down apartment.

In a Close to Home column last week, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers offered to spend the US bailout money to help working poor. “Studies constantly tell us that inequality is both pervasive and generational,” he wrote, “and that if we are to give children the best chance to succeed, we need to invest early and early on. their success. “

Rogers hopes his colleagues will agree to support programs that offer savings accounts for newborns, childcare services, a universal guaranteed income pilot and an employment program.

Board agreement can be determined when the board receives staff recommendations in September.

After listening to a whitelist of preferred spending by one or more council members, interim city manager Jeff Kolin served up the understatement of the week on Tuesday: “I expect the list to be longer and more expensive than what we have funds to fully pay for. “

It has been seven years since a study commissioned by the Community Foundation Sonoma County revealed dramatic disparities in income, education and life expectancy between neighborhoods in Santa Rosa only a few miles apart.

It cannot be acceptable that we live in a country where billionaires live in a world of extravagance while many working people are doomed to poverty. Over time, economic inequality will erode the nation’s raison d’être, fueling the cynicism that leads to political unrest.

Communities also have very practical reasons for wanting to ensure that people do not live in poverty.

Democrats in Congress have tried this year to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, an amount that seems okay until you do the math.

If you live in Sonoma County and are lucky enough to work full time for $ 15 an hour, you make $ 2,600 per month. Meanwhile, the median price for a two-bedroom apartment in Santa Rosa is $ 2,007 per month. Which leaves you with $ 593 per month for transportation, health care, food, clothing, everything in between.

Try living in Sonoma County on $ 2,600 per month and see how it works for you.

For a county where wine and tourism are business, this becomes an invitation to a permanent shortage of manpower.

Meanwhile, longtime residents are aging in their homes. “The Baby Boomers: Housing Rich and Holding On,” said a New York Times headline last week.

Many people would agree that Sonoma County grew too rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s. The cost of urban sprawl can be measured by the ongoing costs of public improvements, traffic jams, air pollution and loss of green spaces.

Some imagine that the rapid growth of the last century has never stopped, but the population figures tell a different story. In the 1970s, the population of Sonoma County increased by 95,000 people. In the 1980s, it grew to 89,000 people.

In the nine years between 2010 and 2019, the population grew by 11,000 people and since 2017 the population has declined. (Many, of course, left after 5,300 homes were destroyed in the fires of October 2017.)

You can look for it in the law of supply and demand. The housing shortage translates into higher house prices and rents.

If you are a homeowner, you are ok with this. You like the equity in a home you bought for $ 100,000 and is now worth $ 1 million.

If you are a tenant, that’s another story. You are more likely to find yourself scrambling to survive.

When community leaders in Sonoma County decided to discourage the development of sprawl, they were never able to find a viable alternative. They have talked a lot about infill housing, but progress has been slow.

Now, like in many communities in California, the lack of housing means people are living in substandard housing, if at all.

Meanwhile, local politicians remain reluctant to oppose the status quo. And measures designed to make it easier to build affordable housing continue to be blocked by the California legislature.

The time will come when Californians will look around and recognize that there should be a better way.

Young people already understand. Unlike their elders, they face a world in which wages and salaries cannot keep up with the cost of housing.

Some will leave, and some will never come here in the first place. Whether it matters can depend on whether you can find a doctor or teacher when you need them, or whether you want your favorite store, restaurant, hotel, or winery to be successful.

Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at [email protected]

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