Our Task – 2



February 26, 2021

dscf6800sedonalitessunriseLast week, I reviewed a few of my goals as the new President/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. I cited the need to expand our tourism vision by embracing the innovation the COVID-19 crisis has produced — that the pandemic has made millions of workers suddenly (and perhaps permanently) mobile, and that making Sedona attractive to them should be a priority. I emphasized a regional consciousness that includes deepening our partnerships with other destinations. Additionally, we will look to utilize Arizona’s university resources to address infrastructure, transit, and especially the lack of workforce housing, which I will expand on today.

First, I want to acknowledge our 766 chamber partners and active events for their tremendous community contributions. Yesterday, our Trail Keepers program presented a check for $370,000 to the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund. The Sedona Trail Keepers are 50 businesses who donated $185,000 for trail preservation over the last five years, which the Sedona Chamber then matched. Their generosity shows once again that our locally-owned businesses are the bedrock of Sedona’s civic spirit.

Sometimes public discussion of tourism and economic management overshadows the support services we offer our partners. Still, nothing is more central to our mission than the success of our members. We will soon be revamping membership benefits from top to bottom, taking our support to the next level.

Regarding Sedona’s housing, we know current prices have put decent housing outside a working family’s financial reach. Basic livability demands housing affordability so families can put down meaningful roots, send their kids to school, create jobs and contribute economically.

For all of Sedona’s desirability and grandeur, you will not find us on lists of the nation’s most livable small cities. The lack of affordable housing is a primary reason. According to a 2020 City of Sedona survey, among those trying to make Sedona their home by renting, 58% are cost-burdened, paying more than 30% of their monthly income in rent. With median home prices above $500,000, purchasing is not a realistic option.

The City Council recognizes this and is taking steps. Sedona removed regulatory barriers to the Pinon Lofts apartments, the first multifamily rentals in Sedona in over ten years. The Council ordered an Affordable Housing Action Plan that concluded (rightly) that Sedona must recruit affordable housing developers to build multifamily units for households with incomes in the range of $50,000 per year.

But government does not have to be the only mover. In the tourism destination of Big Sky, Montana, where I recently served as President of the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Big Sky, I helped form the Big Sky Community Housing Trust, advocating for and building affordable housing. In a community first, we created MeadowView, a condominium development for local workers that will be finished this spring, mainly funded by a tax paid by visitors.

Studies show 60% of people working in Sedona would live here if they could afford it. Projected job growth means more people will seek to work and live in Sedona in the next ten years. Aligning our housing stock with these facts is a priority we need to address together. With enhanced regional cooperation, the entire Verde Valley could consider a comprehensive affordable housing solution.

Last week, I concluded by stating that kindness (“the Sedona way”) should always be the hallmark of our public discussions – we must remember that we all struggle and we all seek to be heard. I am extremely excited to share more ideas, meet more Sedonans and hear your thoughts on how the chamber can best serve the community. I believe that together, we are embarking on a voyage that will see Sedona reach new heights.

  –Candace Carr Strauss,