Time to do something about housing in Wallowa County

Editorial voice of the Chieftain

Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Up until last week, that famous saying often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain, was true about housing in Wallowa County.

A gathering at Josephy Center to discuss housing, most notably the lack of it. was convened. It may be the nucleus of a seed that will help beleaguered county residents looking for housing.

The latest push came as part of a series of goals for the coming year proffered by Wallowa County Rotary President Stephen Kliewer. In his inaugural address to the club, Kliewer said he hoped to capture and bring to bear the same community spirit that built the Joseph Park Playground earlier this year. Everyone participated. Everyone did something. Even small things mattered.

The Chieftain took Kliewer’s cue and began preparing a series of stories outlining the housing issues and possible solutions. The series begins on Page 1 of this edition.

Most challenging seems to be the shortage of rental housing, not necessarily for the disadvantaged but for those who would like to work an ordinary 9-to-5 job and afford to live here. Any business or organization that hires is limited to the pool of individuals already here or must assist in finding housing for anyone hired from outside.

Businesses in the county often rank the lack of adequate rental housing for their employees at the top of their list of concerns for keeping the doors open, much less growing and expanding.

Theories abound as to the cause of the shortage, and those will be examined in depth in the weeks to come. But a greater emphasis needs to be focused on how to alleviate the shortage. There is no single wave-of-the-wand solution. It’s going to involve new ways of thinking and innovation.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results was Einstein’s definition of insanity. Weighty issues that surround the housing crunch in the county will not be solved by status quo thinking. Some eggs are going to have to be broken. Sacred cows will have to be slaughtered. Thinking outside the box is going to be the order of the day not simply a cliche.

No one is suggesting that double-digit growth rates would be ideal for Wallowa County. Mostly what those involved seem to have in mind is adequately taking care of people who are already here and making incremental sustained growth possible.

That makes a lot of sense.

Oh, it was essayist and author Charles Dudley Warner, a friend of Mark Twain’s, who actually provided us the saying about the weather and no one doing anything about it.

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