Recent calls from advocacy group ShelterJH for a moratorium on issuing building permits in the town of Jackson illustrate a bigger concern over the type of development this community wants.

The M-word has been introduced into town and county meetings every few years over the decades, often during boom times or dialogue over a big, highly visible project.

While it can be helpful to shock a system when there’s a major issue needing attention, a moratorium doesn’t solve our workforce housing supply problem.

Development entitlements exist through town and county zoning. The free market currently guides real estate developers to maximize floor area ratios in areas allowing high-density hotels, condos and townhomes, primarily in town.

Mitigation rates are a key tool in creating workforce housing. When a developer builds a commercial or residential building, it’s a forced opportunity to either construct workforce housing or pay a fee in lieu for the impact of the development.

When times are tough, business owners say the mitigation rates are too high and it prevents their ability to build. But during boom times, like now, many argue that the mitigation rates couldn’t be high enough. So how do we solve for a constantly changing variable?

Local land will always be at a huge premium due to scarcity. Costs of construction continue to rise during supply chain disruptions and increases in labor costs. The private market alone simply won’t solve our workforce housing shortage.

We have an opportunity to create a dynamic funding solution that works in every situation. Our community needs hundreds of millions in workforce housing investment to remain even vaguely sustainable long term.

Local funding options include a seventh penny sales tax, real estate sales tax, higher fee-in-lieu payments from developers, and more specific purpose excise tax ballot initiatives.

Local policy solutions will include zoning updates, mitigation rate changes and additional funding from local, state and federal government.

Local philanthropic solutions include a focused effort for housing-specific donations through organizations like the Community Foundation, Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, Teton Habitat and Community Housing Fund. The Cumming Foundation has pioneered a new model that should be replicated by other benevolent developers.

When our community works together, we can accomplish incredible things. Instead of blocking building permits, let’s make policy that will create more workforce housing for the future.

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

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(2) comments

Judd Grossman

Don't use taxpayer money to pay for the housing of private employees. That's a sneaky subsidy of the upper class and encourages business expansion.

Tim Rieser

How is it that even the editorial staff of the News and Guide don’t actually understand the purpose of the proposed moratorium? Oy vey.

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