Redmond Street Rentals

A bill introduced Monday in the House of Representatives would remove local control over affordable housing regulations.

Local efforts to provide affordable housing are again threatened by proposed legislation that would remove the authority of towns and counties to require developers to pay a fee or build affordable housing.

House Bill 277 would essentially undermine Teton County’s program for making homes accessible to low-income workers. Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Teton, said Monday he hadn’t yet read the bill, which was introduced that morning, but was “already working on killing it.”

“There are a number of bills that are related to ... the pre-emption of local governments,” he said, “and I would consider this one to be the most detrimental.”

Teton County and the town of Jackson significantly increased mitigation rates in July, requiring developers to create housing for a percentage of the employees generated by their projects or pay a fee in lieu of building homes. Job growth has outpaced housing growth for years, and the goal is to balance the two.

Some have complained the requirements are too onerous, especially for entrepreneurs and small mom-and-pop stores, and would instead favor large chains over homegrown businesses.

Three of the 10 local elected officials — Don Frank and Bob Lenz on the Town Council, and Greg Epstein on the Teton County Board of County Commissioners — opposed the mitigation rates.Shelly Duncan, R-Goshen, sponsored the bill. She wrote in an email that housing regulations “harm small businesses and hinder economic development.”

“House Bill 277,” she wrote, “ensures the private sector can continue to meet housing demands without unreasonable barriers and increased costs.”

The bill originated in the 2018 legislative session, apparently born out of Teton County’s and Jackson’s debates over housing mitigation. At the time, the proposed rate was for 100 percent of full-time, year-round employees who can't afford market-rate housing, though officials settled on less-demanding requirements.

The language in the bill is virtually unchanged from last year, when it failed by a 2-3 vote in the Joint Corporations Committee.

The bill would still allow towns and counties to create incentives for developers to build affordable housing. For example, Jackson offers additional height and density to those who build one square foot of deed-restricted housing for every two square feet of market-rate housing.

“We should be ... encouraging the development of the necessary infrastructure to house our workforce and their families,” Duncan wrote, “not forcing it through government intrusion.”

But many argue those kinds of bonuses aren’t enough to achieve the level of affordable housing Teton County needs if it wants to meet the target of housing 65 percent of workers locally.

Without the power to manage its own housing regulations, Schwartz said, Teton County would largely be restricted to building affordable homes with funding from the specific purpose excise tax, which voters can designate for particular projects. But that money can’t go exclusively toward housing, he said, “because we have other needs.”

“The town and the county are going to have to figure out, if this legislation passes, how they move forward with an affordable housing program,” Schwartz said.

Several other bills would chip away at local control, especially in Teton County.

The most notable is Senate File 49, which arose from the Jackson Hole Classical Academy’s fight to build a school that does not satisfy rural zoning regulations. It would grant private schools the same exemptions from county zoning that public schools receive. The bill passed the Senate and is now in the House of Representatives.

Another piece of legislation from Duncan, House Bill 196, could undermine rural planning efforts by removing county regulations over the family subdivision exemption. It passed the House Corporations Committee unanimously.

House Bill 51, which has been in the Agriculture Committee since early last week, would remove county authority over fencing regulations. Teton County requires certain fences to be “wildlife friendly” to allow migration.

Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect that the originally proposed housing mitigation rate was for 100 percent of full-time, year-round employees who could not afford market-rate housing; and that Jackson, not Teton County, offers an incentive for deed-restricted housing.

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911, or @JHNGtown.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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(18) comments

William Addeo

Suggestion; Use the millions in housing money to buy land in Alpine. Give builders the zoning and housing they want, to build great affordable housing. Apartment rentals, small houses, attached housing, density that is comfortable yet affordable and eye pleasing. 1000- 2000 units that give the builders sufficient income and creates a nice bedroom community that supports Jackson's workforce. Alpine is the answer, nobody has ever asked the question. It's just so obvious, nobody in the bubble sees it. Workforce busses to Jackson daily and before you know it, your problems will be solved. Alpine is waiting to solve all the housing problems. Nobody wants to fix it? Everybody just wants to argue, fight and suppress innovative working solutions. Get some billionaires together and get it done! God Bless America.

Dave Valley

RE: "Alpine is the answer, nobody has ever asked the question"

Actually many people have made this point for over a decade. Homes in Drictor and Alpine are already much more affordable than homes in Jackson. Many employers house employees there, and many employees obviously live there. The START bus system and WYDOT are planning on massive commuter traffic from those communities - much more than we have now.

The idea behind housing people locally isn't just to provide affordable housing. It's to limit commuter traffic, it's to support families who would otherwise lose time with their families when they commute, it's to embrace the idea that a community is better when it has a mix of people from all demographics. Additionally, it's to keep people who work here an invested in this community. Do you want you teachers and police officers living in another state or county?

Obviously, many people were here before the rich invaded and gentrified Teton County into one big country club. Maybe we should ask the rich to move to Alpine and Drictor.

Ed Sanden

"The bill would still allow towns and counties to create incentives for developers to build affordable housing. For example, Jackson offers additional height and density to those who build one square foot of deed-restricted housing for every two square feet of market-rate housing."... Incentives vs. penalties. This quote from the article should have been included in initial post (dang, it's pretty impossible to edit in here isn't it?!).

Dave Valley

" Incentives vs. penalties"

Most developers want to maximize profits. There is no incentive large enough to build affordable housing when you can triple your investment dollars by going for market-rate housing, or building a hotel, etc.

That doesn't mean that someone with different motives won't take advantage of incentives. Joe Rice is building affordable housing without tax dollars so it can be done even now. Joe Rice is unique, however.

Ed Sanden

> There is your answer right there. Incentives. I don't think you even have to make them "deed restricted". Just build enough of it. Why not lifting the height restriction in a few strategic places. How about a couple of nice high rises, against some backdrop that doesn't get much attention. Lots of garage and storage, views, and close to town. Fixed, once and for all.

William Addeo

Very good point. Everybody wants to make a living working. When you punish workers, they rebel, move or build something different. Emotion, compassion, sympathy and feelings have no place in deciding the bottom line. Your suggestions are thought provoking and interesting but unfortunately, governments want to control and regulate instead of letting the builders have more input to housing solutions. In reality, there is a point of diminishing returns. When it's full, it's full. Jackson is full and the cup is running over. The spillage is the ugly part of communities. This is why communities put building moratoriums into effect. They just don't know what to do. Unfortunately, the wrong people are always making important decisions and they really don't know anything about the subject. They are not held responsible and the community suffers their mistakes. God Bless America.

William Addeo

Simply put; Tell me how much of my money you think belongs to you and please tell me why. Anybody have an answer?
Why can't I live on the Snake River in a 20,000 Sq' mansion? It's just not fair. How come I have to fly commercial when you have a private plane? Just because you worked for what you have doesn't mean that some of it isn't mine?
The trouble with socialism is that you run out of others peoples money.

John Sinson

Why the heck are you trying to house the poor in a ski resort? Do they do this in Malibu?

Noah Osnos

It isn't a question of housing the poor, but rather what the knock-on effects of sprawl that accompanies (population and economic) growth. We have a representative government to represent the interests of all, not just the few (with land and/or access to capital). Of course, if you'd like Jackson to have the same conditions as Malibu, you might as well move there.

William Addeo

Noah Osnos;
You are the one who got it wrong. If you can't afford to live here go where you can afford to live. Why should others support you?

Dave Valley

Everyone in Wyoming is a welfare queen. You live off the extractive industry.

Why should others support you?

Why should anyone subsidize your lifestyle? Wouldn't it be great if we all paid income taxes in Wyoming instead of living off of the hard work of others? Wouldn't it be great if land regulations didn't favor the wealthy, or didn't harm those without wealth in Teton County? Same with our tax codes?

It goes without saying but the residents of Teton County are free to ask anything of their government. If you don't like that idea, China is just a short flight away. You'll love it there. The government decides everything for you without any real public participation.

The great thing about public housing is that it allows our community to function like any city. The people who work here get to live here. Unlike Beverly Hills which has a big city on its doorstep, Jackson Hole does not. The people who keep the lights on and clean up your messes live here. That includes the ones that keep the lifts spinning at the JHMR. The ones that make your food at restaurants or stock food at the grocery store. The ones who fix your flat tire or shovel your sidewalk. The ones making beer and policing our streets.

It would be even better if the private marketplace addressed affordable housing but the developers want to get rich and don't want to build affordable housing (except Joe Rice). The other problem is that the government favors and creates a distorted economic marketplace in Jackson Hole and we end up interfering in the housing marketplace to fix our own messes.

So we end up with over $300 million in affordable units in Teton County. Big deal. Most of the money comes from tourism directly or indirectly. The extractions paid by a new hotel, the extractions paid by homeowners, the extractions paid by any development are all related to our service and hospitality industry. Look at Dubois, Wyoming, or West Yellowstone. How many rich folks want to live there. Not many. Too few property services, too few art centers, too few bars, too few hip restaurants, too few golf courses, too few ski hills, to few hotels, to few airports, to few pathways, to few trails, too few fancy stores, etc. Without the service & hospitality industry, the wealthy would not be here to the extent they are.

So the point is that it's the little people who make this town what it is, not the rich second homeowner looking out at the 7th tee.

Dave Valley

Why the heck do we have a ski resort?

"As part of the state-mandated Housing Element Update, Malibu has been told by the Southern California Association of Governments, or SCAG, that it needs to prove it can accommodate 441 new housing units. This includes 188 units for those in the income categories of very low ($40,000 for a family of four) and low ($64,000 for a family of four)."

So, yes. They do do affordable housing in Malibu and almost EVERY other community in America that doesn't have it.

William Addeo

So, you are the indentured servant who should be taken care of because you have no choice? You are forced to live here? I made a decision to move from places when the economy got out of balance for me and I wanted to work instead of live in a welfare state with no work and super high taxes, like New York.
I just returned from a mission in socialist Spain where I advised on a huge castle being turned into a Religious Retreat Center. I spent 88 days seeing socialism's failures turn a once vibrant economy into a listless society of under achievers who have no dreams or hopes for a better future. Socialism has failed everywhere and now Venezuela is front and center for the poster child of catastrophic socialist disasters in the worlds most resource rich nation. It's time for you welfare mentality gimme people to wake up before you have no place to sleep. Life is not fair. You don't deserve anything you didn't work for. Nobody owes you anything. You live with your own self inflicted wounds that you make up to blame everyone else for your lack of effort.
You want change? Get a job, get training, move to where you can afford it and get to work. That's real change. Someone else will clean the houses!
God Bless America....................!

Dave Valley

Actually, I don't live in subsidized housing. I pay full price. And I favor free markets but we don't have a free market in Teton County when it comes to housing. I can't put RV on a tiny plot of land in Jackson and call it home. Our land-use policies distort the free market in a very negative way. They favor one class. A classless society (or county) is the primary goal of communism, libertarian socialism and anarchism.

You want change? None forces you to live here. If you find it soooo objectionable that we have affordable housing, leave. Really. Others will take your place. I would say to all the people who object to affordable housing, move to a community where there is none. Your problem is solved.

You're on the losing end of the argument because we have millions of dollars of affordable housing already and much more coming online.

I don't remember God mentioning affordable housing. And lord knows, God has bigger fish to fry.

William Addeo

Dave Valley; You don't understand basic conversation. You should think before you write. You put words in peoples mouths and distort the topic like all SJW of today's fake news are doing. This is why nothing gets fixed. You want things your way and you even question , "God Bless America," at the end of a writing?

Dave Valley

RE: "You want things your way"

Thant's funny.

And you don't want things your way?

The fact that I am open to taxpayer-supported affordable housing but I favor a free market proves that I do not, in fact, only want things my way. A free market approach would include getting rid of regulations which make it impossible to build affordable housing options. A government for, by, and of the people can indeed do whatever its constituents ask if it isn't unconstitutional. If they demand affordable housing, so be it.

Ken Chison

Yeah Dave. And I demand another new GMC Denali. Think the town will buy it for me? This county is all but nuts. Penalizing a developer, because they don't build what the govt wants? Really? How about instead of punishing the developer, you reward them for building what you want? Kick in a handsome 25 percent sibsidy, paid at the completion of what you want built, and wham. We are running like a renewable energy project under obama. Our elected officials should have no say on what a private developer wants to build, within reason, on their land.

Ken Chison

Although I do like the title of queen, I do not quite understand the metaphor of living off the extractions industry. If you actually owned a home or business, there is this little thing called property tax, which, goes towards schools, fire protection, police and all those public entities you speak of. And, if you knew how being a developer works, you would know that the town does not pay to have any utilities or infrastructure in general, put into say a new subdivision. That cost is paid by the developer. Developers pay for the power, the water, sewer and everything else, which is then included in the price when they sell a lot. The free market will dictate what happens in JH. If low wage workers continue to stay, a housing shortage will continue. Why they stay I do not know. If I wanted to struggle with a housing crisis, I would do it in West Texas where I would at least be making 25 dollars an hour in the "extraction" industry. A shortage of workers here would free up housing and force businesses to pay way more for workers. In essence, your latte might go up a couple dollars, and maybe a few less people might actually visit or move here. Which, in the end, would definitely be a win.

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