Delays Put Rentals in Jeopardy



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.

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