By Ann McCreary

Community members are invited to join in a conversation about affordable housing needs in the Methow Valley on Thursday (May 19), 5:30–7:30 p.m. at the Methow Valley Senior Center in Twisp.

“It will be an opportunity for members of the community to talk about their struggles with housing, the successes they’ve had, and the gaps they’ve seen from their experience or from what they’ve seen others experience,” said Sandi Scheinberg of Methow Valley Long Term Recovery (MVLTR), one of the sponsoring organizations.

Housing consultant Julie Brunner and Associates has been hired to help assess affordable housing needs in the Methow Valley and develop a plan to meet those needs. Brunner will facilitate Thursday’s community conversation.

“She has expertise in rural communities similar to ours in scale and culture,” Scheinberg said.

Over the summer, Brunner and her team will collect data and conduct interviews and focus groups, with the goal of developing an action plan by fall.

Affordable housing has been an ongoing concern in the Methow Valley because of the tourism-based economy and seasonal fluctuations in housing demand. In addition, the loss of homes in the Carlton Complex wildfire impacted the availability of affordable housing.

Lack of affordable housing impacts the ability of local businesses to attract and retain employees, said David Gottula, president of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce. The issue has come up repeatedly during economic focus groups led during the past year by TwispWorks and the Twisp and Winthrop chambers of commerce.

The affordable housing initiative is supported by a coalition of community organizations, including MVLTR, Room One, The Cove, the Methow Conservancy, TwispWorks, and the chambers of commerce.