The City of McCall has gone through five months of the Local Housing Action Plan process.
The city works with a variety of professionals, including attorneys, planners, policy workers, residents of other resort towns, and others who can contribute to the housing crisis conversation.
The committee has one main goal: to find solutions to the housing shortage.
“It’s kind of asking industry professionals who have a history of working, in this case, with other mountain towns to discover creative solutions to locking in the local housing market for the workforce and members of the intergenerational community in the face of all the challenges we face,” said assistant city planner Meredith Todd.
Todd said working with this committee allows knowledgeable people to dig deeper into policy options for local housing and learn about tools other cities are using to alleviate housing shortages.
The most important issues identified
Todd said there are two “distinct” needs that the committee has identified in the housing market.
First, she said they needed a “basket” of available winter and summer rental units to support the workforce in this seasonal tourist city.
“We’ve noticed that we have the summer college workers who traditionally come to town to make more money in the resort industry, and then we have the winter workforce that comes to work at Tamarack or work at Brundage or work in skiing,” Todd said. General, for the most part, it’s really hard for them to secure housing, both on the part of the employer and on the part of the employee.”
The second need is entry-level housing – something that was destroyed during the housing crisis. This includes entry-level homes and housing for young adults or individuals who are in the early to midway stages of their career.
According to Intermountain MLS, the median home price in Valley County is $773,750, which is not the price tag for an entry-level home.
The median price is the halfway point for all homes sold in a period of time.
“There are homes when you look at them, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s a good starter home,'” she said, “but it’s not because the market is up.” “So at least for the entry-level home ownership market, the way we’ve seen in Vail and Breckenridge and other cities is through contract constraints. And that in a strange way, it lowers the market value of a home because there are constraints on who can occupy it. But it doesn’t reduce it to the level of Not worth the money.”
Currently, McCall has two local housing assistance programs, including the Incentive Program and the Act Restriction Program. If the property owner or developer places deed restrictions on the property, they will receive a check for $10,000 in local option tax money. This encourages developers to restrict housing to the workforce.
While the committee believes this is a “good start” for the city, Todd said they found the incentive program could use some love.
“What they have noticed is that our incentives can use a lot of help. I mean like actual incentives to put restrictions on bonds or foreclosures on local units and on books,” Todd said. “So they are looking at finding creative ways to generate funding because restrictions and incentives always cost money, Whether it’s in actual dollars or like fee waivers, tax offsets, things like that.”
Currently, McCall deals with the issue of sewage density. The sewage network is under stress during peak periods, making it difficult for the city to allow high-density projects. Todd said the committee was discussing ways to combat this.
“They will help us look at policies that we can put in place in the meantime while the sewage system is already pooled to a higher capacity over five years and 10 years…and then prioritize the sewage capacity of the locally booked units,” he said. “So they see this as a great opportunity to focus on new development on local units rather than just going on public projects when that’s not what the community needs.”
The commission is also exploring other ways to use local option tax policies and annexation to take advantage of more housing outside city limits.
Resident feedback is an important part of finding housing solutions. This is why the city sent out two surveys to get feedback. One survey targeted the entire population, and another was specifically for business owners. “Rapturely,” Todd said, the city has noticed that business has already struggled during a housing shortage as that often equates to a staff shortage.
[McCall saw its economy take off during COVID-19, but concerns of ‘Boise on steroids’ loom for housing]
Todd said these surveys they’ve sent out over the past two years are like a “micro census” with a focus on housing. She said the city was able to see what was going on in the city after the housing boom.
“They showed (the census numbers) that our occupancy levels rose by a whole group and our population increased by a whole group,” Todd said.
However, she added, those numbers were likely inflated by people who were residents in the time period of COVID but have since gone home as the world returned to normal.
“So our permanent residents during COVID and when the census took place sort of swelled up what we see as a reality in the long-term workforce and residential population. So, we can’t really call any of it official because technically the census wins everything, but it certainly is. It indicates that our township occupancy is a struggle.”
short term rentals
The influx of short-term rentals is often cited as the main problem with housing shortages – although the committee found through committee meetings that this may not be the case.
“Most property management companies in the area offer discount rates and incentives to their clients to switch to long-term rentals, a practice that municipalities elsewhere have already created grants to fund,” she said. So they do it independently within the private market.
It was a surprise to the people in the room to find out, Todd adds.
“It was a surprise to everyone in the room that even the people who run and run businesses that are mostly short-term rentals, they take the initiative to try and encourage property owners to switch because they know it’s a community of need and an unserved market base so they see the business opportunity trying to convince People make money in a different way, and they can actually make more money.”
This information, she said, led the short-term rental conversation in a new direction. Todd said they are working on how to remind property owners and members of the community that there are different ways to use these properties.
“And maybe you could make more money, and maybe you could rent someone else’s property on the lake for free as a bonus, something like that,” Todd said. “So that led, I think, to encouraging information, which started off weak at best. A lot of people came into the room and were like ‘short term rentals.’ And then after going through all the data, they were like, ‘Oh, there are some chances. over here.”
All information found will be packaged and submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission and McCall City Council for review. It will then be adopted as a resolution to become an official city planning document and each proposal will be worked on.
After that, the package will go to a committee such as the Housing Advisory Committee. After the review, the committee will send its recommendations to the board for writing the matter. This process takes about five to ten years to chart the best path forward.
The committee will present its bids on June 10. To read more about the Local Housing Action Plan, click here.