Tweaks to affordable housing rules approved Tuesday mean couples are now eligible to apply for two-bedroom units through the Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Department.
Last June the town and county enacted a policy that required households to fill the bedrooms of a deed-restricted unit to be eligible to apply for it.
That meant studios and one-bedrooms were available to one- or two-person households, but two-bedrooms could be sought only by households with one or two adults and at least one dependent, excluding couples from lotteries for two-bedroom homes.
Then, a December 2018 report showed that while 67% of households seeking affordable housing through the town and county are one or two people, only 11% of the stock of ownership units are one-bedrooms.
“Until we get a more balanced product and inventory, staff’s recommendation is to change the two-bedrooms to two or more people, which would allow a two-person household to apply for a two-bedroom unit,” Housing Manager Stacy Stoker said.
The department wants to maximize how many people are served by each unit but recognizes that life circumstances change. For instance, a couple applying for affordable housing may prefer a two-bedroom unit if they plan to have children.
Under the new policy, studios and one-bedrooms are restricted to one or two people; two-bedrooms are for households with two or more people; and three-bedroom units must be occupied by a household with one or two adults and at least two dependents. Those rules apply to units that are restricted as “affordable,” meaning owners must meet income and asset limits.
There are no restrictions on what size household can occupy “workforce” restricted homes, which don’t come with income and asset limits and require only that the renters or owners be employed full time in Teton County. But households that meet the above descriptions get an extra entry in the weighted drawing for a given unit.
Cody McInnes wrote electeds supporting a change to the rules, saying that while filling rooms is a priority, the previous requirements were “limiting and restrictive.”
“I do understand not filling a 3-bedroom home with a single occupant,” he wrote. “However I also feel that relaxing the current regulation to allow for a guest room is the right answer.”
Even with the revisions, the occupancy rules still present a challenge for the 43% of households seeking affordable housing that are single people.
“There’s a ton of one-person households and a very small amount of units they’re even allowed to apply for,” said Skye Schell, who has unsuccessfully applied for drawings for several units.
While he understands the desire to fill bedrooms, Rich Ochs, who is the county’s emergency management coordinator, also wrote elected officials highlighting the challenges the program poses for single people, who have access to only the 11% of the stock that is one-bedroom.
“One-bedroom units are too small to make moving from a larger rental worthwhile for me as a single midlevel professional,” Ochs said.
“This puts a large group of people into a permanent rental situation with no way out other than to move out of the county.”
Other changes to the housing rules included expanding who qualifies for affordable housing by working in a “local business,” ensuring day care and early childhood providers who work full time can qualify for housing, and no longer requiring all adults in a home to be on the title — for instance, if someone purchases a home then moves in a significant other.
The elected officials voted to maintain rules that require owners to wait a year after purchasing a home before moving in a partner, and require homeowners to occupy their unit for 10 months of the year.