Jackson Hole, WY News

Opinion

Gills must focus on affordability

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For Jackson Hole to stay true to its roots in the face of progress and be a community first, resort second, the Gill family’s recently stated axiom, “If you want a local community, you need locals,” is right on the mark.

The ranching family has chosen to engage the public in a critical decision — adding density in South Park — by bringing forward the draft of a project.

The concept of adding density to northern South Park would be a boon for working people if designed in a way that ensures affordability for the local workforce.

Under their current zoning the Gills can subdivide the land into 83 lots. We can all agree that those larger lots are not the answer to our housing crisis. Second homes are not vital.

Instead the family is investigating creating 488 lots. Some 30 to 40 lots, 6% to 8%, would be donated to Habitat for Humanity, which through its “sweat equity” model builds housing for some of the lowest income earners in our community. These are people arguably most in need of safe, stable homes.

Now we’ll have to wait and see what the family proposes to do with the remaining 400-plus lots. Already, the lots will be smaller. But thinking big and outside the traditional box, the Gills could find more partners — nonprofits, institutions, government — to add deed restrictions guaranteeing affordability, or workforce housing, far into the future. Partnership agreements or deed restrictions could take many forms.

Just across the highway from this ranch land sits Cottonwood Park. Once affordable, today most free-standing homes there sell for more than $1 million. That housing is forever out of reach for most working families. For a family of two the median income is $81,760. For a family of four it’s $102,200.

The Gills have said they want to provide housing options for families that make a little too much to qualify for “affordable” housing programs but still can’t afford a home in the valley. Figuring out how to do that is the million-dollar question.

This big opportunity to develop meaningful tracts of northern South Park is serious. Let’s encourage the developer and elected officials to work hard in striking the balance between respectful density and housing the workforce in a meaningful way.

This editorial represents the opinion of the News&Guide’s editorial board: Johanna Love, Rebecca Huntington, Kevin Olson and Adam Meyer.

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