Town staff are advising elected officials to tag in the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust to advance a beleaguered downtown project.
After two failed tries to secure low-income tax credits by the Town Council’s preferred developer, Westmount Development Group, of Connecticut, the project hangs in limbo as officials ponder how to get units built at 174 N. King St.
Ultimately, it seems, financial considerations may force the decision.
Despite the “immense need for low-income rental housing,” a town staff report states, “the costs to build that type of housing at this site and the public funding realities limit [the town’s] ability to pursue the rental options.”
The Housing Trust and Westmount were among the finalists vying for the project. In March 2018, the council reviewed revised proposals and picked Westmount.
But Westmount’s plans — 30 units priced for Teton County’s lowest income range — relied on tax credits, which so far it has been unable to obtain. Jackson’s high construction costs make it difficult to win over the Wyoming Community Development Authority, which awards the credits and sees getting more bang for its bucks somewhere where costs are lower.
No one seems interested in further stalling the project for another try at the credits, and Westmount’s other alternatives are simply too expensive. Though they would bypass the uncertainty of tax credits, they would require $2.8 million to $3.5 million in public subsidies. The town has just $2 million in funds for housing.
With that in mind, town staff suggested the Housing Trust was the safer bet. Its revised proposal is identical to its first and calls for 24 ownership units tailored to a mix of income ranges generally higher than Westmount’s.
The plan would require $3.4 million in public subsidy, but director Anne Cresswell said she is confident the Housing Trust can raise about $2.1 million through private philanthropy. The town would use some of its $2 million in housing funds to cover the difference.
“To me that’s really compelling,” Councilor Jim Stanford said at the last meeting on the project. “I think the Housing Trust proposal is a clear way to go.”
If elected officials were to stick with Westmount, they would need more money for subsidies. Housing Director April Norton said the town could sell its portion of another property at 440 W. Kelly Ave. or other properties on Flat Creek Drive, each of which is worth about $800,000.
The Housing Trust would aim to break ground in spring and open the homes by fall 2021. But Cresswell said that’s already a tight timeline, and she needs a decision soon to finish design and contracting preparation before construction season arrives.
The council will consider the proposals at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall.