Looking Back

Four-year-old Nicole Smith and her mother Tina watch as workmen prepare their newly-purchased mobile home for a trip to Victor, Idaho, in the summer of 1991. The Jackson Hole News’ August 7, 1991, cover story addressed the plight of residents of a small mobile home park near Gregory Lane who had been told to relocate, “making them the latest victims of a growing trend across Teton County. As land values escalate, trailer parks are being closed and the land used for more profitable development.”

Aug. 25, 1960, Jackson Hole Guide

Russ Knodel, superintendent of schools, cited a desperate need of housing for teachers, especially married teachers with children. “Anyone who has any housing is asked to contact him at the high school,” the paper reported.

March 11, 1965, Jackson Hole Guide

At a meeting of the newly organized Parents Education Council, members and teachers talked about high rents as one of several possible reasons for teacher turnover in the community. Several teachers were forced to live in trailers because of a lack of proper housing.

June 24, 1976, Jackson Hole Guide

Jackson businesses that employed seasonal workers were seriously short of employees because of the lack of housing for them. “We say to these people, ‘If you find a place to stay you are hired,’” said Abi Garaman, co-owner of the Ranch Shops and the Rancher Bar. “They never come back.” He and partner Chick Joy had wanted to build employee housing on the east side of town, but loud opposition from residents upset at the prospect of traffic and noise inclined the Town Council to vote the plan down.

March 23, 1980, Jackson Hole News

Jackson was part of a national trend of apartment owners converting their buildings to condos, reported the Jackson Hole News in 1980. “In a community that has been plagued with problems in trying to house its seasonal employees necessary to its tourist economy, these conversions will likely make scarce rental housing an even more endangered species,” the paper said. In Jackson, about 250 bedrooms were being removed from the local rental and motel pool to be offered for private ownership, including those at the Meadowbrook Apartments on the west end of Deloney, the Teton Meadows Apartments on East Hansen and the Grand Vu Motel on Broadway.

April 5, 1989, Jackson Hole Guide

Sixty residents of the Chalet Apartments in Teton Village, among the only inexpensive rentals there, learned of a plan to demolish the complex to make room for expensive condos. “In light of the housing shortage in Jackson Hole we are concerned that we will join the growing ranks of the homeless,” a group of tenants wrote to the Jackson Hole Guide.

Dec. 13, 1989, Jackson Hole Guide

The shortage of low-cost housing was hurting nearly two thirds of Jackson Hole’s businesses, according to a survey commissioned from private consultant Jonathan Schechter by the town of Jackson, Teton County and the Chamber of Commerce. “I couldn’t get enough people to work for me this summer because there wasn’t any housing,” one retailer said. “I turned away as much business as I took in because I didn’t have the bodies.”

May 23, 1990, Jackson Hole Guide

After resisting the push for subsidized housing in Jackson for nearly two years, Mayor Sam Clark and the Town Council said they would support Teton County’s fledgling housing authority, which would work to obtain grant money to acquire and provide affordable housing.

June 12, 1991, Jackson Hole News

At the request of Teton County Sheriff Roger Millward and county commissioners the Bureau of Land Management closed property on the Snake River and a section on the Gros Ventre River to summer campers. Many people camped on BLM land because they couldn’t afford or find a place to rent in Jackson Hole, but Millward said the living conditions at the sites were deplorable. “With the housing shortage in Jackson in the last few years this problem has become critical,” he told the BLM.

June 17, 1992, Jackson Hole Guide

In June 1992, the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust promised that its first homes for middle- and low-income families would be packed tightly but would be beautiful, not slums. The nonprofit, formed a few years earlier, planned to build a mix of townhouses, two-bedroom homes and three-bedroom homes on 4.75 acres in Cottonwood Park that Teton County and the Jackson Hole Land Trust helped buy.

Feb. 9, 1994, Jackson Hole Guide

The Rafter J and Cottonwood Park subdivisions had failed to remain affordable. When Cottonwood Park was developed in 1985, a typical three-bedroom, two-bath home sold for $75,000 to $90,000, the Jackson Hole Guide reported. By 1990 the same home sold for about $135,000, and by 1994 it sold for $200,000. Consultant Jonathan Schechter said part of the problem was more out-of-town investors and second-home buyers. Teton County Commissioner Steve Thomas said Rafter J and Cottonwood should never have been zoned to allow such huge developments without guarantees of permanent affordability.

Feb. 22, 1995, Jackson Hole Guide

The last available home in the new 36-unit affordable neighborhood Mountain View Meadows had just sold. New homeowners in the project, where prices ranged from $62,300 to $87,900, were thrilled with their abodes. “We were just about priced out of the rental market,” said construction worker Dan Haney, who had a wife and two kids. “We almost would have had to leave Jackson if we hadn’t moved here.”

April 12, 1995, Jackson Hole News

Starting May 1, 1995, the Bridger-Teton National Forest imposed new stay restrictions for campers at Mosquito Creek, Curtis Canyon, Shadow Mountain, Ditch Creek and elsewhere, sending up to 1,200 people who lived in the woods and worked in town scrambling for housing. Prolonged camping had resulted in eroded soils, garbage and sanitation problems, including high fecal coliform levels in Mosquito Creek. “People can’t live on the national forest,” an official said.

May 17, 2000, Jackson Hole News

In May 2000, some 450 to 500 people attended a public forum sponsored by the town and county and several nonprofits to brainstorm ways to address the lack of affordable housing. Many said it was up to Teton County to curb demand. “It makes sense to me that if we have a hard time supporting housing for what employees we have now, we should restrict commercial development,” Kristine Martin said.

May 31, 2000, Jackson Hole News

In May 2000, Red Velvet Swing Old Time Photos owner Don Harger proposed that businesses pool their money and fund affordable apartments for employees. “I think that we have a greater obligation to our current residents and workers than we do to those future part-time, seasonal and large-home residents that are coming in,” he said.

Dec. 6, 2000, Jackson Hole Guide

Larell and Corianne Walker accepted the keys to their Habitat for Humanity home in the Sage Meadows Subdivision, 4 miles south of Jackson near the intersection of Highway 89 and South Park Loop Road. It was the third of Habitat’s first three homes in Jackson Hole. The Walkers never thought they’d be able to afford to buy in Jackson Hole. “We were thinking that we would have to move away to find a place, but we got lucky,” Corianne Walker said.

Oct. 8, 2008, Jackson Hole News&Guide

Teton County Administrator Jan Friedlund, retiring after 11 years in the position, planned to leave the valley for a more affordable town where she could buy a home. She said that if she could have done anything differently during her tenure it would have been to start getting affordable housing for county government employees when she first moved to Jackson Hole.

— Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey

Looking Back is a popular feature in the Valley section that provides a snapshot of decades past. For this special report, Looking Back graces the A section with a version focused on housing woes. — Ed.

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor for the News&Guide and one of the editors for local articles printed in the Jackson Hole Daily.

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