-, Top Stories July 14, 2016

Delays Put Rentals in Jeopardy

by Jackson Hole. Media


County Might Lose Money on Taxpayer Funded Real Estate


When some of the community’s elected officials threw their support behind an affordable rental housing project, it appeared that there could be new units under construction this summer. But that support has not translated into a firm timeline and now some are worried that it is might be getting off track.

It was in early May that Mayor Sara Flitner asked the Town Council to join her in committing two to three million dollars to the Redmond Street Rental project planned by the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust. The council agreed. But when it came time to seek the support from the Teton County Board of Commissioners, the response was a tepid one.

Commissioner Natalia Macker tried to get the ball rolling, but to date, the commitment has not been finalized.

Commissioners did vote to attempt to sell an office building on Broadway and then dedicate the proceeds to the Trust project, but the Trust needed to have a guarantee in order to finance and start construction. That has not happened.

To make matters more complicated, the county officials cannot individually commit the money. That’s because by adopting the Housing Action Plan earlier in the year, all property bought with Special Purpose Excise Tax money now is controlled by both the town and county. The town would have to sign off on the sale and commitment of the funds. And while the town is likely to approve, no vote has been scheduled.

It’s not clear how much the property is worth either. County officials have tossed around the figure of one million dollars, though many in the real estate industry doubt it will fetch that much and could be sold at a price less than it was purchased for. The county paid 1.1 million in 2006.

That is also true for another piece of property that was purchased with SPET money. Known as the Cheney property, and never used for affordable housing since being purchased more than ten years ago for 2.1 million, it too is being considered for a sale. Again there is a concern that the Housing Authority will lose money on a sale.

None of this is helpful to the Redmond Street Rentals, which will cost a total of 12 million dollars, a figure is likely to increase if there is a delay.

That seems likely as the there is no scheduled discussion before the town or county.

Not everyone is unhappy with the circumstances.

Candidate for Town Council, Judd Grossman, has derided government funding for affordable housing noting that, “publicly subsidized projects like The Grove and the Redmond Street Project require massive amounts of taxpayer money and produce only a token amount of housing – just enough that the government can look like it’s “doing something”

This is all the backdrop as the community readies for a vote to increase taxes to create a dedicated revenue for the government to address affordable housing and traffic.

Grossman wrote that “Direct public subsidies of private sector workforce housing is corporate welfare, and at the rate of $100,000 to $400,000 in cash subsidies per unit we will waste millions of dollars and barely scratch the surface of our deficit of thousands of workforce housing units. “

The potential delay at Redmond is not the only one in the affordable housing world. Taxpayers committed 4 million dollars in SPET tax in 2005 and 2006, but saw no housing units built. Earlier this year, the county added 4 to 6 years to the completion of the Grove development on Snow King and Scott Lane when they gave the final phase to Habitat for Humanity to complete.

The tax increase would give the town and county 24 million dollars over 4 years.

Comments 7
  • This is unacceptable. The job of Progressive Government is to FIND the money, TAKE it, and DISTRIBUTE it to those deemed deserving. The People want housing! In Venezuela or Zimbabwe action would have been taken long since. Onward!

  • P.S. “The tax increase would give the Town and County 24 million dollars over four years.” That’s forty units, maybe. In 5-7 years, maybe.

  • P.P.S.”County might lose money on taxpayer funded real estate”. Buy high, sell low, that’s their motto.

  • Very informative, thank you! What I’d love to see is someone get the word out as to what the Housing Trust deems as affordable. Have you seen their cost to the community member for these units? I asked for this & was surprised by what they have listed. It’s hard to say that $950, not including any utilities on top of this, can be viewed as “affordable” for a 1 person renter. & $950 is for a one room, studio apartment!

  • As someone who is moving into the Grove, let me assure you that something more than nothing is still something. This move will allow me to stay in the community I have worked in and contributed to for many years. The former housing authority is doing its best with the options it has had to work with. They essentially work for the Board of County Commissioners, and the Commissioners work for their parties of interest. Politics at work. This issue should have been foreseen 20 years ago, but was neglected. Now that we are very late to addressing these issues, we have cost prohibitive land and building expenses. So, even though the “affordable” housing is more than is normal in America, it is still “affordable” in Jackson. These most recent units are a foothold for the locals who want to maintain and build lives in Jackson Hole. Again, something more than nothing is still something. Let’s build responsibly, and for the long-term. Perhaps some of the once rejected dense community housing as presented in the past should be reconsidered?

    • Fair enough, as long as you acknowledge that the Government is picking winners and losers. In this case, you’re the winner, we’re the losers.

  • Actually, the Cheney Lane property IS home to three affordable rentals. One of which my family lives in. Why do people write articles without first doing their research???

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