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Hailey approves short-term RV housing option

The City of Hailey expects 500 more housing units to be available in two years. The RV option is meant to provide some immediate, but temporary, relief.

HAILEY, Idaho — The Hailey City Council has approved short-term RV housing options for the second time in as many years.

Amid an affordable housing crisis, this option is meant to be a interim solution and provide immediate relief, according to Hailey Community Development Director Robyn Davis. Current city code prohibits people from living in an RV for more than 30 days.

City Council minutes show the new RV option only allows camping for 6 months out of the year; living in an RV is still illegal between Nov. 30 and March 15.

The time restrictions are for safety reasons through cold winter months, according to Davis.

Those who choose to live in an RV must also abide by the following restrictions:

  • RV must be located on private property and may not be located within City rights-of-way
  • Occupant must either be an Idaho resident who is locally employed (dependent on the local economy for livelihood), a caregiver for the household, or a family member of the household
  • No short-term rentals permitted
  • Sewage must be disposed of with regularity at a designated RV dump station.

A similar RV program in the summer of 2021 received few complaints, according to Davis.

"And so we thought we'd do it again this year," Davis said.

The RV program will benefit local businesses, according to Wood River Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michael McKenna. Shops and restaurants are struggling to hire enough employees because many people can no longer afford to live in Hailey.

"The working class has been priced out," McKenna said. "It's supported without a doubt, but it's kind of like putting a Band-Aid on a chainsaw wound."

Tourism is the backbone of Hailey's economy, according to McKenna. And by being a robust tourist attraction, the town is also facing the unintended consequence where long-term rentals are now listed on popular short-term stay apps, including Airbnb.

This further limits housing options for locals on tight budgets.

"Rent has gotten insane around here if you can actually find a rental," McKenna said. "We're trying to promote people to come visit us, but then we don't have enough staff to keep the restaurant open long enough, or to keep all the recreation and retail business going as strong as it could. It's kind of a double-edged sword there."

The RV program received five applications in 2021, according to Davis. The city believes the actual number of RV dwellers was much higher, because some people may have not gone through the proper documentation process.

Around 500 housing units will be available for use within two years, according to Davis. The city cites projects like these as long-term solutions to the affordable housing crisis; however, McKenna is not convinced the answer is that simple.

"What is now considered affordable, three to four years ago we considered that mid-level or expensive," McKenna said. "Always gotta be hopeful, but it's a little scary to see where we're going around."

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