The town and county won’t be allowed to require developers to build or pay for affordable housing if the Wyoming Legislature approves House Bill 277.
The bill passed the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee in a 6-3 vote Thursday afternoon and is headed to the House floor for review.
It would decimate Teton County’s program that is designed to house 65 percent of its workforce locally, a goal enshrined in the 2012 Comprehensive Plan as necessary to retain community character and quality of life.
As part of the affordable housing program, the town and county require developers to mitigate their impacts by paying a fee for or building new workforce housing as part of a project.
In July, the town and county hiked mitigation rates that determine how much affordable housing developers are required to contribute. Costs of commercial development, like offices or restaurants, jumped significantly as a result, while the burden on residential development was lowered.
The aim is to bring housing growth into balance with job growth. As development generates jobs, developers must provide housing for those workers concurrently with the project. But the business community pleaded with the town and county to reject the requirements, fearing they would hurt mom-and-pop businesses and entrepreneurs.
Shelly Duncan, R-Goshen, sponsored the bill. She wrote in an email that housing regulations “harm small businesses and hinder economic development” and pose “unreasonable barriers and increased costs” for the private sector. The bill instead encourages towns and counties to rely on incentive-based programs for affordable housing for the workforce.
Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Teton, testified against the bill before the corporations committee. He explained that Teton County’s affordable housing requirements are necessary to keep workers in the community.
“I am so strongly opposed to this bill,” Schwartz said. “I think it’s the heavy hand of federal overreach. Now the state is adopting that heavy hand and coming into the county and saying, ‘We know what’s best for Teton County.’ I would argue this bill does not understand at all what is best for Teton County.
“There is no way you can make the argument that this has hurt business development,” Schwartz said. “What this does is ensure that we actually have a workforce to manage businesses, to generate tax revenue.”
Bill Novotny, a commissioner from Johnson County, also testified against the bill on behalf of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, which he said generally opposes the pre-emption of local control.
A representative of Wyoming Realtors spoke in favor of the bill.