There may be no one answer to Jackson’s housing problem, but two new developments in the town’s approval process may represent new approaches.
Though they have similar designs the projects used different approaches to provide much-needed housing.
Redmond Street Rentals is based on a model of public-private partnership. With significant help from the town of Jackson, the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust bought two lots in the heart of east Jackson. Ultimately the nonprofit will lease the land from the town and develop 28 affordable rental units.
The Westview Townhomes are completely funded with private money. Built in a former commercial zone at the edge of town on Highway 22, near the Thrifty car rental, the development seeks to provide 20 units, 16 of which will be deed-restricted. The project’s developer, Eric Grove, hopes to rent those units to employers searching for employee housing options.
Redmond Street Rentals is more of a traditional housing project resembling that of the surrounding neighborhood. The project is unique for two reasons: the private-public partnership and the fact that all units will be rentals.
“We feel like it’s a new model moving forward,” said Anne Cresswell, the executive director of the Housing Trust. “We hope to prove that rental housing is synonymous with good design, good construction and good management.”
The development of rental units would also provide the trust with a revenue stream that would enable it to seek alternative sources of financing.
To get going by this summer the Housing Trust needs $6 million of public money that would be matched through privately raised funds.
According to Jackson Town Manager Bob McLaurin, Jackson is in the process of creating an agreement with the trust to provide $2 million to $3 million.
Summer start hoped for
Still short of the necessary $6 million, the trust is also exploring whether the county could match the town’s commitment. While no final decisions have been made, the county has considered selling some of its unused property to raise the money.
“The time to act, if we want to get in the ground by summer, is now,” Cresswell said. “We are acutely aware of the housing issue in Jackson and are committed to breaking ground this summer.”
Though the town of Jackson would own the land — it purchased the two lots for $1.5 million in 2014 — the town would not be financially responsible for the property or its development. That burden would fall on the Housing Trust.
“We’re not developers,” Mayor Sara Flitner said. “This is exactly the role the government should play in this type of project.”
Of the 28 units 19 would be one-bedroom units and seven two-bedroom units. Rent would run from $900 to $1,550 a month, which, according to the Housing Trust, 80 percent of families in the category one income level could afford. Category one stipulates a family of four makes less than $64,646 annually and that they possess no more than $137,280 in assets.
To be accepted applicants must comply with the income and asset limitations and be full-time employees in Teton County.
Working with employers
While 16 of the Westview Townhomes’ 20 units will be deed-restricted, there will be no income restrictions. Instead the developer is attempting to work directly with local employers.
“The goal was to build as much Teton County workforce housing as possible,” Grove said. “We thought it was time to bring the employers up to bat. It’s really like a co-op for the employers.”
Instead of signing individual leases with workers, Grove and his partner, Charlie Schwartz, would create five-year master leases with businesses. A company would pay rent and charge its employees whatever it deemed fair, so long as it didn’t exceed the unit’s original price.
The developers are ensuring that the deed-restricted units remain affordable in perpetuity, while employers are responsible for the management of properties.
The other aspect of Westview that distinguishes it is its location. While the Redmond Street Rentals will be in residential east Jackson, the Westview Townhomes are in a commercial zone. After rezoning, the town allowed for Grove and Schwartz to redevelop the land as employee housing and reinvigorate an underused section of town.
“We’re trying to set a tone for that corner,” said Grove. “We’re not asking the town for money, but we are asking for help through that process.”
Rent rates and the number of deed-restricted units make most privately funded housing projects unfeasible without public subsidies.
Grove and Schwartz, however, bought the land eight years ago when prices were more affordable. That financial flexibility gives them fiscal viability.
“We’re not here to make money,” Grove said. “The numbers barely work. Charlie and me are sticking our necks out, but it’s important for us to realize the equity growth in the future.”
A two-bedroom unit with two covered parking spaces — which describes all of the 16 deed-restricted units — would rent for $1,800 to $2,000 a month.
To make the project financially feasible, the top four units, which are three-bedroom units, will be sold at market rate.
Construction is slated to begin this fall, with units opening to the public next spring.