By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer

The Economic Diversification Council will hold a meeting at 7:30 a.m. at the White Pine County Library on Sept. 5. The meeting will focus on the housing market in White Pine County and possible ways to help alleviate the issue going forward.

“The meeting they are talking about is how to get the community to buy in with the city and the county to get them to collaborate on the housing issues in our market,” Community and Economic Director Jim Garza said. “More specifically, we have a lot of vacant homes, older homes that possibly could be renovated. There are some properties that probably need to be purchased that are for sale and updated with energy efficient applications and be part of this need of housing that we have in this community.”

The housing market, whether to rent or to purchase, has led to, in some cases, new workers coming to the county and living in hotels until they can find a property to live in.

So far, Garza said the focus will be in looking for ways to improve current houses and rental properties, which can be refurbished to help meet the housing shortage need in the county. While the county will continue to try and draw in new housing developments, renovated existing product may help reduce the risk for everyone involved.

“We have to look at lower cost projects because the less you invest, the less your risk is for the volatility of the mining industry,” Garza said. “The good thing is gold prices are going back up, we’re seeing that pattern over the last few weeks. But the city and the county, they’re not property owners. We’re not developers, we’re not investors. We do care about our community and want to do what we can to inspire landowners and property owners to get them motivated and look at developing their properties.”

Whether it’s getting new buyers to purchase existing properties and renovating them and making them more energy efficient, or reaching out to property owners who own a second home in White Pine County and convincing them to utilize the property as a rental property, there are ways within the county’s existing housing infrastructure to help ease the shortage, Garza said.

“Those are the opportunities that we need to look at and talk about that with the city and figure out how we can work together to reach these people,” Garza said.

Some of the concerns raised about exiting property include the physical conditions of the properties and enforcement of city and county codes to ensure safety. That can be a tricky situation and Garza said the city attorney and district attorney would have to be involved. But while the county is committed to drawing in new housing developments, existing properties presents an opportunity to make a dent in the county’s housing issues in a quicker timeline.

“Our purpose is still new product,” Garza said. “We’re working hard on that and have some great leads, but there are a lot of older homes that could be refurbished and utilized to help the shortage.”

The public is invited to attend the meeting on Sept. 5 to participate in the discussion. The housing issue in White Pine County may not be a new issue to the area. But Garza said everyone is hoping this meeting will be a big step toward addressing the issue going forward.

“They just want to take that first workshop and see if we can get the county and city to sit down and list out some goals on how we can approach improving our housing,” Garza said.

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