Working together on the housing crunch

Last week’s Guest Shot painted an ugly picture of our community [“Politicians: representatives or rulers?” Oct. 25 News&Guide]. It included a number of false statements, and we would urge the community at large to check the facts and consider the source.

We did not write the Housing Supply Plan, but nowhere in that document does it “add 2,800 subsidized housing units.” The Guest Shot was riddled with hyperbole: The plan will add 7,000 people to the community, it will double our population, increase traffic jams and drive taxes upward. None of these statements can be substantiated. Furthermore, when we talk about our community and we use divisive, vitriolic terms, “winners and losers,” we lose. We lose the compassion, truth and mutual respect that everyone in the community deserves from one another.

The truth is, housing in Teton County has never been an easy issue. We have an opportunity at hand to plan for smart development that prioritizes community housing over resort housing, open spaces over sprawl, and walkability and transit over traffic jams.

If we choose the path of providing safe and stable housing for community members, we all benefit. Affordable housing provides stability for our teachers, coaches, emergency service providers and maybe even the chef at your favorite restaurant. And lest we forget, affordable homeowners are our friends, our neighbors and a part of our community’s fabric.

For those interested in both sides of the story, here is a community-minded perspective:

  1. Without housing affordable to our local workforce, Jackson will only be home to people who can pay $500,000 or more for a home.
  2. Housing programs in Teton County use subsidized housing as a leveraging tool to help participants gain a foothold into the free market.
  3. Yes, we have traffic, but let’s not start a storm over a few hours a day, six to eight weeks each year. For an overwhelming majority of the year, traffic is flowing and community members are able to get where they are going in a reasonable amount of time.
  4. Yes, a portion of our workforce will always commute. But if we don’t plan for the majority of our workforce living locally, we can expect that traffic will get worse; wildlife collisions will happen more often; and, yes, businesses will suffer (the school district, the hospital, and the town and county to name a few).
  5. By working together we can plan smart and protect the character of our complete neighborhoods by developing quality workforce housing in areas near accessible biking, walking and public transportation.

The authors of this Guest Shot believe affordable housing strengthens Jackson Hole. The Housing Supply Plan provides tangible options to move the needle on this critical community issue in the near term and the long term.

The fact is, if we allow people to inform public perception with fear, rhetoric and divisiveness, our housing challenges will never be solved.

Now is the time to reach out and find common ground so that we can continue to enjoy the quality of life we have come to know in beautiful, incredible and completely unordinary Jackson Hole.

Stefani Wells, marketing and communications director for the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, wrote the above on behalf of the Housing Trust, Shelter JH, Jackson Hole Working and Loring Woodman. Opinions expressed are solely those of the authors.

Posted by Stefani
Nov 1, 2017