February 27, 2023

Re: We need more than Workforce: The approval of The Loop

While ShelterJH is a housing advocacy organization, we have long understood that all housing is not created equal. New home construction on its own will not solve our housing crisis, but we can offer the most vulnerable people in our community a path to housing stability by advocating for more permanently deed-restricted Affordable homes.

There are great things about The Loop, like its proximity to infrastructure. This project requires no public monetary subsidy (although the bonus tools the developer is using are forms of public investment). Of the 195 apartments planned for The Loop, 45% will be Workforce deed-restricted, and only one unit will be Affordable. 

Per our housing mitigation program requirements, The Loop is being developed to offset the homes needed by employees generated by new commercial development—in this case, a new hotel on North Cache Street. But will the workers at this new hotel be able to afford to live at The Loop? Since Workforce homes are not income-based, we don’t know. Two-bedroom Workforce apartments in the Sagebrush complex cost about $3,400/month. 

Workforce homes usually serve locals who earn more than 120% of Median Family Income (MFI) and therefore do not qualify for income-based Affordable units. While they deserve access to homes, we need to make sure that our community is also prioritizing building Affordable homes for people who earn below 120% MFI, and therefore have the fewest resources to secure housing.

There are concrete steps we must take to begin to address the dearth of Affordable homes in Teton County. We must adjust our housing mitigation requirements to ensure that developers are building units that their employees can actually afford. We must allow added density in appropriate areas to help Affordable units be financially feasible. We must update our short-term rental regulations so we stop losing homes to the speculative market. We must change our regulations so developers and elected leaders have the tools to say “yes” to more Affordable housing developments.

The Town Councilors voted 3-2 to approve The Loop. We support the Town Councilors who voted “yes” to support deed-restricted homes, and those who voted “no” in the absence of true affordability. Workforce housing does serve certain people, but our community cannot subsist on Workforce units alone. We need to acknowledge the importance of Affordable deed restrictions and advocate for the necessary regulatory changes to provide homes for locals who need them most.