The 2020 real estate market was a gut-punch to anyone in our workforce who hoped to someday own a home in Jackson or to, at least, have secure, stable housing.

I have spent decades living in this town listening to the same anger about the same housing issues in our valley. For so long it felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. We all have felt that way. However, last year, instead of doing nothing or simply falling into the spiral of discussing the same strategies that have yet to be realized, I decided to act.

Last year I went to the Teton Board of Realtors and, over the course of 12 months, worked to create the Community Housing Fund — a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to bridging the gap in funding for our housing crisis. I’m very proud of what we created in such a short period of time. The Teton Board of Realtors partnered with the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, Teton Habitat and Teton County Idaho Joint Housing Authority to advance shovel-ready projects. We are presently discussing potential collaboration with the Jackson/Teton County Housing Department.

Donors, not the Community Housing Fund, select the housing project their contribution will go toward. We ensure every gift to the fund is well-invested and meticulously managed. Each transaction is 100% transparent. That is the design. Every single dollar to the Community Housing Fund supports the design, development and construction of a qualified affordable housing project in Teton County, Wyoming, and its neighbor in Idaho.

The Community Housing Fund is another tool in our toolbox to help mitigate the housing crisis. In its nascence it’s already working. Buyers and sellers are participating. My family will be giving at every transaction, and many other Realtors have stepped up with the same commitment. Some Realtors are even using their advertising funds to promote the Community Housing Fund and encourage other Realtors and clients to contribute. I cannot wait to see how this fund evolves over time.

Housing is not a “hot topic” and the Community Housing Fund is not a “tip jar.” Neither is it a replacement for a real estate transfer tax, nor a replacement for other strategies. The Community Housing Fund is simply the first and currently only program to ask how Realtors and property transfers can contribute to affordable housing in our community.

It’s irresponsible to put all of our eggs in one basket. Everyone must get engaged. We have been waiting on a real estate transfer tax for a long time.

Replace words with action. Demand that our local state representatives get creative down in Cheyenne and build better alliances. Join a housing advocacy group, volunteer your time, write your electeds and work to get housing funded in other ways as well. Encourage our county commissioners to dedicate more county funds to housing and to put another one cent sales tax on next year’s ballot. These are actions we can take right now.

Is the Community Housing Fund a magic wand? No, not a chance. Nothing is. We need all tools on the table to tackle housing. We need zoning changes; land development regulation updates; sales taxes and specific purpose excise tax measures; elimination of red tape for building applications; and incentives. We must do it all, and we must do it now.

Since its launch in September the Community Housing Fund has raised several hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s not millions and millions of dollars … yet. But it’s funding for housing right now. There are hundreds of Realtors in the valley. So make sure your Realtor is contributing to the Community Housing Fund. Make sure your Realtor friends are too. We have the ability to do something right now. So let’s do it. Let’s make this a success, a success our community desperately needs.

Devon Viehman, a local Realtor, is the Community Housing Fund’s founder and an author of the Jackson Hole Report, a quarterly real estate report. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

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