ShelterJH Candidate Endorsements

MEDIA RELEASE

 

Contact: Brenna Cannon

Email: info@shelterjh.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

ShelterJH endorses housing champions in local election

 

Local housing advocacy organization ShelterJH announced endorsements for Town Council, County Commission, and Sheriff candidates today.

“This 2018 election is a great reminder that we all need to vote all the way down the ballot – local elections will have a huge impact on our neighbors, especially our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Mary Erickson, ShelterJH board chair.

For the first time, ShelterJH is endorsing housing champions in three local elections. We sent all local candidates a questionnaire about housing; you can read what the candidates who responded said here. Then the ShelterJH board met, with input from active members, and discussed all candidates based on their answers to the questions and what we know of their public actions for housing. Our criteria included our judgement of their commitment to affordable housing in general; their commitment to our most vulnerable neighbors in particular; their likely effectiveness; and their alignment with our policy priorities such as tenant protections and sustainable public funding for housing ⅔ of our community.

Town Council

It was not easy to pick only two of the four candidates for Town Council. All four have promised action on housing our workforce, and Don Frank is an incumbent who has been a part of good decisions over the last few years – we are grateful for those actions, but given the gravity of our housing crisis, we need the Council to go beyond good work to truly outstanding work and new levels of leadership. In the end, it was clear that two candidates are truly focused on housing as a core priority. As a housing organization, our mission is to identify leaders who will prioritize solving our housing crisis – especially for our lower-income community members.

Jessica Chambers has demonstrated a personal and public commitment to housing, especially those most in need. As she wrote in her response to our questionnaire: “We need public investments in human services, child care and early education, and housing. We need a livable wage for workers… Overall, I will make decisions based on the best interests of the working people in Jackson with regard to housing and beyond.”

Arne Jorgensen has been a housing leader for 30 years. He was a founder of the Housing Trust and has been involved in countless housing initiatives over the years. He wrote, “if elected to serve on the Jackson Town Council I will encourage my fellow Councilors to dedicate the resources necessary until measurable progress on this issue is made; until this issue is truly prioritized, it will continue to fall by the wayside. It has become more and more clear to me that we will not be successful without being willing to invest in real solutions.”

Both Jessica & Arne have expressed a clear commitment to prioritizing housing, including through density in town, new public funding, and creative uses of town-owned land.

County Commission

We found the County Commission candidates represented a greater range of focus on affordable housing: some candidates are clearly committed to housing our workforce, while others have other priorities. Some say they believe in affordable housing but also believe the “free market” will provide it, and refuse to consider public funding – showing a clear lack of understanding of our local conditions. Although you can vote for up to three candidates, we have identified two housing champions: Seadar Rose Davis and Luther Propst.

Seadar Rose Davis is committed to using public resources for working-class people. In her answers to our questionnaire, in addition to expressing her openness to a variety of housing strategies, she stated: “I will strongly fight to improve access to affordable and safe child care, for robust public health services, and for strong partnerships with our human services sector.“

Luther Propst has a career’s worth of experience working with Western small town communities, trying to balance economic growth with familiar community values like open space protection, and – most important for us – providing ample housing for people who work there. Luther wrote that some of his principles include: “Focus on both supply and demand. In 2017, Teton County experienced 3.5% job growth; at that rate, the number of jobs doubles in 20 years. That rate of growth compromises the vision of Teton County’s comprehensive plans, our community values and character, and our wildlife. Prioritize providing the full range of affordable housing, including rentals, rather than land use changes that create more demand for housing. Foster housing partnerships among local governments, employers, landowners, lenders, and both private and non-profit developers.“

We believe Seadar and Luther will be the strongest voices for affordable housing on the county commission.

Sheriff

We also invited candidates for Teton County Sheriff to answer our questionnaire and tell us why they would be the best candidate for housing and for our working and middle classes. As a large employer, the sheriff directly influences housing critical service providers in their department. The sheriff also sets policy and practices related to protecting and serving our most vulnerable community members. We believe Matt Carr has a proven history, and ongoing commitment, to leading our law enforcement from a humane and solutions-oriented perspective.

These are our endorsements. We encourage you to research and meet the candidates, and most of all – remember to vote!

ShelterJH builds political power so that all our workers can have secure housing in Jackson Hole. We are a membership organization created by Jackson’s middle-class and working-class workers. We are especially focused on solutions for our neighbors living with the most housing insecurity. As a 501(c)4 nonprofit instead of the typical 501(c)3, we can endorse, oppose, and support candidates – and help get and keep great housing champions in office. Join us: www.shelterjh.org

ShelterJH is hiring grassroots organizers

Job title: ShelterJH grassroots organizer(s) – multiple positions available

About ShelterJH: we are a membership organization working to ensure that all who work in Jackson can have a home here. We all dream of a better life. We work hard and make sacrifices to try to meet our goals here in Jackson, the community we love. As a community, we rely on each other in numerous ways. When one of us struggles, we all suffer – our families, our friends, our employers, and Jackson as a whole. To ensure we can all do more than merely survive here, we’re committed to making Jackson livable for everyone. This is our home, and we want it to stay interesting, lively, and the Jackson Hole we know and love.

ShelterJH is a 501(c)4 membership organization, unlike your average nonprofit. All of our money comes from people like us, instead of focusing on wealthy donors. We’re completely independent and free to work for the best interests of tenants and workers. Members elect our board and give input on big decisions at our annual member meeting. We can support candidates to help keep great housing champions in office.


Job description:

The grassroots organizer(s) will lead a ShelterJH activism and membership drive during the 2018 election season. The local elections are an ideal time to spread our message and get more community members involved in our work as volunteers, activists, and members. The organizer(s) will get out in the community, with a special focus on their own communities and networks, and get more people involved. ShelterJH board members will manage and mentor the organizers.

Hours and compensation:

Multiple part-time positions are available, adding up to an average 16 hours / week total (so we could hire two people at 8 hours / week, or three people at smaller amounts, etc). We want this position to work for busy people who already are working full-time or more. These jobs are excellent training for aspiring grassroots organizers / mobilizers. Pay is $15 / hour with additional bonuses for successfully growing our member base.

Job duties:

  • Member / activist canvass: invite more people to join ShelterJH as members ($20 / year dues, sliding scale) and activists. Utilize community events (tabling), your own networks, door-to-door canvassing, and our list of interested people from previous events to find people who want to sign up. We especially want candidates who can engage young and/or Latino folks. – estimated 4-8 hours / week
  • Turnout: mobilize your networks to show up at election events like candidate forums; Town Council meetings; etc. – estimated 1-2 hours / week
  • Event/election coordination: we would like one organizer to take on additional administrative duties, including coordinating events and our electoral work (questionnaire, candidate interviews, endorsements, ads, etc) – estimated 4-5 hours / week

Qualifications:

  • Friendly, outgoing, good with people
  • Highly motivated and self-starter
  • Bilingual preferred (English / Spanish)
  • Experience in canvassing and elections is preferred
  • Good written communication and organizational skills (for administrative role)

To apply:

Contact info@shelterjh.org with cover letter and resume, or any questions. Deadline: August 20 (applications accepted and interviews scheduled on a rolling basis.)

,

Affordable Housing Rules and Regulations

The town and county invited for further public comment on some of the details of their most recent drafting of rules and regulations for affordable housing in our community. Below are some of our thoughts and opinions on the staff’s recommendations and the general discussion of housing in our community! We are stronger together, not divided.

 

Dear Mayor Muldoon, Town Councilors, and County Commissioners:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your joint housing rules and regulations, and thank you and your staff for a tremendous amount of hard work on these important subjects.  

ShelterJH is a membership organization that works to ensure all who work in Jackson can have a home here. When people move out or commute, we lose critical service providers on-site, and we lose volunteers and active members of our community. Therefore, as we consider changes to housing rules, regulations, and zoning, we should always ask what the changes will do for our workers and community – especially our community members in the most vulnerable situations.

We have one high-level comment, and then comments on a few topics that we understand are still being discussed.

Overall, we believe the whole discussion of housing rules & regulations has been framed in a very limited way: Currently, affordable homes are viewed as a gift from our community to a few deserving individuals who have earned the homes through their merit, hard work, and type of work – and therefore our regulations should be very strict to make sure that only the most deserving people get and keep affordable housing. This whole frame misses the point. It’s not about the individuals at all – it’s about what kind of community we want to be. We believe a diverse community is a better community – and that we all benefit when our workers can live here. We aren’t “giving” homes to people – we’re creating opportunities that don’t otherwise exist for a diverse community that benefits all of us. If we don’t create affordable homeownership and rental opportunities, we’ll end up an empty husk of a resort town – and none of us want that. Seen in this light, the purpose of these rules and regulations should be to set up simple and streamlined opportunities to ensure a diverse community of local workers. Overall, we believe the current proposal is overly regulated, overly punitive, and overly expensive to administer.  Please use our tax dollars on building community rather than surveillance of affordable homeowners and tenants.

Occupancy requirements

Your current draft regulations add more restrictions to the size and types of households that can apply for different sizes of units. We ask that you base occupancy on number of persons in the household and not distinguish between adults and dependents. Based on discussions with two Fair Housing experts, we believe that restricting applications based on familial status (i.e. whether children are in the household or not) violates Fair Housing rules. Just as one example: a household of 2 should be able to apply for a 2-bedroom unit, regardless of what kind of family that is (a couple or a single parent with a child). Adding more rules makes this more restrictive and complicated. Please do not discriminate based on family / household make-up.

Lottery / drawing process

We are glad to see the new lottery process has been streamlined to only one “bucket,” so everyone who applies actually has a chance to win. This is a notable improvement over the old system. The goal should be creating a simple and equitable system that can retain local employees. Putting in more applications is irrelevant to our goal of retaining a diverse local workforce and is unnecessary. Increasing entries based on the amount of time you’ve lived here adequately provides priority for longevity in the community. Please do not add “number of past applications” to the drawing process.

Renting rooms in an affordable/employment home

When it comes to renting rooms, our goal should be to fill all available rooms with qualified employees, and to simplify the rules – not to generate revenue for the housing program. There are currently empty bedrooms, often the result of changing family status – why not let homeowners rent them to qualified renters? It is a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way to get some of our employees in a safe and healthy living situation.  To your staff report questions:

  1. Yes, please allow rentals. Especially in employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And in both employment-based and affordable homes, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce – which is our goal.
  2. The annual fee should be a simple and low flat fee of $100. Again, the goal isn’t to fund our housing program – it is to get more people in affordable housing. Yes, that takes staff time – but that’s why we fund the Housing Department with existing funds. Staff should not be involved in collecting rent – keep it simple.
  3. Maximum rents should be very affordable, and linked to maximum rents in public rental units. We suggest that all rented rooms (regardless of the category of the home) have a maximum rent that is affordable to 1 person at 50% AMI. (Option 3 at $460 seems most appropriate.) We do not support splitting rent with the housing department. Again, the goal isn’t to raise money, it’s to house more people. If a homeowner only gets half the rent, there’s much less incentive to rent your room to someone who needs it – and it’s more costly to administer.

Overall, please choose the policy options that are the simplest and do the best job at housing our local workers – especially those in most need (people earning below 50-60% of area median income).

Thank you for your consideration,

Mary Erickson

Chair

ShelterJH

, ,

It’s the Final Countdown for our Housing Rules

The Town & County are updating the rules for both housing mitigation requirements (how much affordable housing developers have to include in their projects) and housing rules & regs (who gets to live in our affordable homes, and what strings are attached). These are part of their “Engage2017” work and there’s a ton of info on their website.
 
Town & county elected representatives met last week and gave preliminary direction on how they want to address all the important topics in these two projects. We are extremely encouraged by their decisions on some of our “top 6 priorities” that we listed below. Please thank them for taking steps in the right direction, especially for agreeing to stop asking renters for immigration documentation.
 
The town & county have one more joint meeting next Monday November 13 to finalize their policy direction for both topics. We hope to see you there! If you can’t make it in person, email our representatives ahead of time – council@townofjackson.com and commissioners@tetonwyo.org.

 

OUR TOP PRIORITIES (in short form)

  • Mitigation: instead of the current complicated proposal that leaves out seasonal employees, please use a simpler setup: “developers should mitigate for 65% of all employees – both year-round AND seasonal – and re-do the Nexus Study so we have up-to-date data.” And, please require 1-for-1 replacement of all workforce units destroyed by redevelopment.
  • Rules & regs: thanks for moving away from asking renters for immigration documents!

 

MORE DETAIL…

Housing rules & regs: overall, simplify the rules, and don’t discriminate either intentionally or unintentionally against most vulnerable community members.

  1. Don’t discriminate against renters based on immigration status. The comprehensive plan calls for housing 65% of all local workers, not just documented workers. Unlike with employment, no law requires asking about documentation for housing – it’s just a policy decision, and one that is currently excluding a large number of our community members who have lived here for decades, work hard, and pay taxes. Please remove immigration status from your rental criteria. (Policy Question 1.) >>> Almost all our representatives agreed with this – please thank them!
  2. Owners should be able to rent rooms to other local workers. For employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And if roommates do not push an income-limited owner over the income limit, that should be allowed too. Ultimately, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce. (Policy Question 9.) >>> Our representatives asked staff to bring more info back on Monday. Keep asking for this!
  3. Simplify the lottery process by entirely removing preferences and points. The current system is complex and also gives extra weight to people who have the ability to volunteer – excluding service workers forced to work multiple jobs just to provide for their families. (Policy Question 10.) >>> Our representatives may change the system but still need to hear from more people that our housing should be available for all our workers in an open and fair lottery – not based on an idea of “earning” our way in.

Housing mitigation / requirements: overall: simplify the program and fully mitigate for 65% of new employee generation

  1. Our housing mitigation program should generate enough units to actually *keep up* with new jobs created, and house 65% of our new employees. This will likely mean increasing mitigation rates, as well as applying them for both year-round and seasonal jobs, for all jobs paying below 200% area median income, and on commercial and residential projects. >>> The new proposal may do a better job “keeping up” with job growth, but it’s hard to know because there’s no math showing how it connects to our 65% community goal. We strongly recommend a simpler system that includes both year-round and seasonal employees and requires developers mitigate for 65% of all full-time equivalent employees (FTEs).
  2. Simplify the program by reducing the number of use categories and removing the change-of-use fee – instead, just charge an averaged rate initially. >>> This helps make the previous point work better.
  3. Require 1-for-1 replacement of any existing units lost to redevelopment. In addition to “keeping up” with the new development, we also need to replace affordable/workforce units that are bulldozed before that new development is built – and we should require these be replaced 1-for-1. Otherwise, we’re just digging our hole deeper. >>> Our elected representatives are considering this idea, but need to hear more support from all of us!

 

FULL COMMENTS

, ,

The 6 most important changes to our housing rules

We’ve been closely tracking the housing mitigation and housing rules & regs updates in the town and county’s “Engage2017” planning updates. Town Council and County Commission are getting input that opposes our goals of fair housing for all, and more affordable and workforce housing … so hearing from community members who support housing is critical. The town & county have a joint meeting on Monday October 30 about both mitigation and the housing rules & regulation. We hope to see you there!

 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

Oct. 30: Joint Town Council and County Commissioners meeting to consider alternatives and develop a draft policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall. May be continued to Nov. 1-2 if necessary. Public comment to be accepted.
Nov. 3: Release of draft policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall.
Nov. 13: Joint town and county meeting to finalize policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall. Public comment to be accepted.

 

OUR TOP PRIORITIES

Housing rules & regs: overall, simplify the rules, and don’t discriminate either intentionally or unintentionally against most vulnerable community members.

  1. Don’t discriminate against renters based on immigration status. The comprehensive plan calls for housing 65% of all local workers, not just documented workers. Unlike with employment, no law requires asking about documentation for housing – it’s just a policy decision, and one that is currently excluding a large number of our community members who have lived here for decades, work hard, and pay taxes. Please remove immigration status from your rental criteria. (Policy Question 1.)
  2. Owners should be able to rent rooms to other local workers. For employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And if roommates do not push an income-limited owner over the income limit, that should be allowed too. Ultimately, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce. (Policy Question 9.)
  3. Simplify the lottery process by entirely removing preferences and points. The current system is complex and also gives extra weight to people who have the ability to volunteer – excluding service workers forced to work multiple jobs just to provide for their families. (Policy Question 10.)

Housing mitigation / requirements: overall: simplify the program and fully mitigate for 65% of new employee generation

  1. Our housing mitigation program should generate enough units to actually *keep up* with new jobs created, and house 65% of our new employees. This will likely mean increasing mitigation rates, as well as applying them for both year-round and seasonal jobs, for all jobs paying below 200% area median income, and on commercial and residential projects.
  2. Simplify the program by reducing the number of use categories and removing the change-of-use fee – instead, just charge an averaged rate initially.
  3. Require 1-for-1 replacement of any existing units lost to redevelopment. In addition to “keeping up” with the new development, we also need to replace affordable/workforce units that are bulldozed before that new development is built – and we should require these be replaced 1-for-1. Otherwise, we’re just digging our hole deeper.

 

FULL COMMENTS

,

How should we change our affordable housing rules & regs?

The town and county asked for public input on a series of questions about our Housing Rules & Regulations as part of their Engage2017 planning work. The ShelterJH policy team dug deep into the questions and wrote the following letter to our elected representatives. We hope it helps explain what mitigation is and how it can help. Make sure to share your ideas with the Town Council and County Commission! Contact us with any questions at info@shelterjh.org, and please become a member and build our power today!

 

RE: Housing Rules & Regulations

Dear Mayor Muldoon, Town Councilors, and County Commissioners:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your joint housing rules and regulations. ShelterJH is a membership organization that works to ensure all who work in Jackson can have a home here. As we consider changes to housing rules and regulations, we should always ask what the changes will do for our workers and community – especially our community members in the most vulnerable situations.

We believe it is important to have clear rules and regulations governing the “who” and “how” of rental and ownership homes provided by the public sector to ensure that policies are equitably serving all working households. The current rules and regulations have evolved over the last 22 years to address shifting needs and implement diverse programs established by the Board of County Commissioners and Town Council.  This patchwork of rules and regulations has:

  • Contributed to the complexity of the housing program creating management challenges and increased staffing requirements
  • Reduced transparency, created misconceptions and made it difficult for residents to understand; and
  • Is likely disproportionately serving different demographics – maybe not to the benefit of our most vulnerable neighbors.

We believe this exercise is a great start to understand community perceptions about the existing housing program, explain how the current program operates, and learn about what is being done in comparable communities. We also believe the next step of this work should be undertaken by the Joint Housing Authority Board because most of these questions are technical and deserve scrutiny by those that have expertise and will be implementing these rules and regulations.

This next step should include an analysis of the existing housing program to understand through data instead of perceptions whether the existing rules and regulations have been effective at achieving the intended housing program goals.  Because there is no data in the materials to date, it is impossible to determine whether there are problems with the status quo, or if any of the proposed alternatives will actually improve the housing program.

Additionally, the basis for the proposed alternatives has some shortcomings.  The term “best practices” of comparable communities is misleading because the comparison is of the practices used by these communities without an analysis of whether the practices are effective.  Additionally, the reliance on Aspen as a model is troubling because the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority is actually right now undertaking a major overhaul of their rules and regulations based on a thorough study of their housing program.

In order to work within this Engage2017 process, we provide comments for your consideration that distinguish between the various housing programs, such as Affordable, Employment-Based, and Accessory Residential Unit, where appropriate. Our comments are intended to simplify the existing housing framework, make the public market work with more efficiency and ensure fairness.

 

1. What should the employment criteria be to rent or purchase a restricted home?

1A: Modify the employment criteria to make them more user-friendly while adhering to the Fair Housing Act:

  • Eliminate the employment preferences in the lottery system; they are complex to manage, difficult to understand, confusing to potential buyers/tenants, and they are discouraging to new employees. (See also question 10.)
  • It is crucial to define what “local workforce” means. We support your definition: working at “a business located within Teton County, holding a business license with the Town of Jackson, or one that can provide other verification of legal business status in Teton County, WY”.
  • Telecommuters have a choice to live anywhere and should not be eligible for any housing programs subsidized by the public sector. There is a limited supply of this housing and occupancy should be optimized by restricting to local workers or classes protected by the Fair Housing Act and seniors.
  • We suggest that you remove immigration documentation requirements from rental units: currently “at least one member of the household [must be] a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (Green Card).” While that may make sense for ownership units, where lenders require immigration documentation for a mortgage and sellers of deed restricted homes can be impacted by the inability of a buyer to obtain a loan, rental units do not have this challenge, and our community goal is to house the local workforce in our valley. We should be concerned with whether the renters are employed in the valley and within the income limits that we require for everyone – and that’s it.
  • We support allowing families to buy affordable/employment homes if at least one adult household member is documented (e.g. citizen / legal permanent resident). While we recognize there are reasons to require that our homeowners have documents (such as obtaining leases, and the security of knowing their employment situation), we do not believe our community should be in the business of immigration document inspection for all household members. If any adults qualify, let’s not worry about other household members.

 

2. What kind of assets should be allowed and/or counted, and how much is the limit?

2G: This is a technical question demonstrated by 7 options for consideration and is beyond the scope of appropriate public outreach. The Joint Housing Authority Board should provide a policy recommendation based on technical analysis of the current asset limit and calculation methodology.  Data would enable answers to several questions, including:

  • How many households are denied access because of the current asset cap?
  • How many households would be impacted by a change in the asset cap?
  • What percentage of household assets are retirement savings?
  • What is an appropriate asset cap to allow equal access to restricted housing inventory?

We offer some suggestions for consideration to the options proposed:

  • Ownership of another home or mobile home within 150 miles should not be allowed while owning a deed restricted home. Upward mobility is achieved by offering an opportunity for safe, secure, and affordable housing with a share of the equity at time of resale.
  • Ownership of a home or mobile home at time of qualification for an “Affordable” home should be allowed to enable households to move back into the valley from our bedroom communities and to move into more suitable housing to meet their household needs.
  • Ownership of a home or mobile home at time of qualification for a rental product or an “Employment-Based”, “Attainable” or “Workforce” unit should not be allowed. Special circumstances can be addressed through the relief process.
  • If ownership is allowed in any of the programs, the income from the residential property should be used in calculating household income and the equity in the home should be used to determine household assets.
  • Implement a set asset cap, such as $200,000, that applies to all “Affordable” categories.
  • Eliminate retirement savings that are not used to purchase the home from the calculation of assets so households are not ineligible because they have been financially prudent by saving for retirement.

 

3. How many months out of a calendar year should a household be required to occupy a restricted unit?

3B&D: The intent of using public resources for restricted housing is to provide a safe, decent and affordable place for local workers to live.

  • The occupancy requirement should be 11 months out of the year for the deeply subsidized “Affordable” homes – in order to reduce competition for lower priced homes from those that choose to work fewer months out of year, and recognize the unique character of Jackson’s workforce that often hold seasonal jobs.
  • The requirement should be 9 months per year for the Employment-Based and Workforce homes, as those programs are more flexible by design, and not targeted to low-income workers.

 

4. What livability standards, if any, should apply to restricted units?

4G: This is another technical question demonstrated by 7 options for consideration and beyond the scope of general public outreach. The Joint Housing Authority Board should provide a policy recommendation based on technical analysis of the current asset limit and calculation methodology.

We offer some suggestions for consideration to the options proposed:

  • Rental units designed for seasonal employees, often in the form of dormitories, do not have the same storage needs as units for long-term employees.
  • Standardize the size requirements between long-term rental and ownership units. Allow flexibility for design creativity that does not compromise livability.
  • Maximum sizes should be implemented to encourage more units instead of larger units, if mitigation is based on square footage.
  • Energy Star appliances are competitively priced and widely available. Use of Energy Star appliances should be required to decrease the operational costs, which impacts long-term affordability.
  • Consider an incentive that allows developers to raise the maximum sales prices if they incorporate elements that lower costs to operate and maintain the home compared to current building codes.

 

5. What percentage of a household’s income should be spent on housing?

5A: Determining an affordability standard is a common challenge for policy makers in resort communities. Selecting a measure that minimizes the subsidy to create the unit, while ensuring that housing is a source of financial stability to the occupant is a delicate balance. The 30% ratio of income-to-housing cost is the most common figure used in comparable communities.

The Joint Housing Authority Board should provide a policy recommendation based on technical analysis of the current methodology. Data would enable answers to several questions, including:

  • How many households are getting homes that could afford to pay more?
  • How many households are in homes that are unaffordable?
  • How many households have been denied housing because they exceed the debt to income ratio limit?

We offer some suggestions for consideration to the options proposed:

  • The Affordable homes have qualifying income ranges designed to prevent households from earning too much to qualify for certain homes.
  • The minimum debt to income ratio discourages households from being financially sound and carrying unnecessary debt.
  • The maximum debt to income ratio was implemented prior to the financial crisis when banks were offering high risk loans based on stated incomes and high debt to income ratio. This standard should remain because it protects the community asset by offering a method to ensure the buyer can afford the home and lessening the risk of foreclosure. It also ensures that the buyer is eligible for a conventional loan.
  • Consider lowering the percentage of income spent on housing for “Affordable” Category 1 households. Households earning $100,000 per year have much more left over after paying 30% of their income for rent or mortgage to cover other necessary costs than do households earning less than $30,000 per year. The flat 30% ratio does not take into account the varying ability for households at different income levels to afford non-housing essentials such as food, clothing, transportation, healthcare and childcare.

 

6. When should a household have to qualify for a rental or ownership home?

6D: 6B is recommended to streamline the requalification process, but consider a longer time-frame for requalification of rental units to between 2-3 years to reduce management costs and increase renter stability.  Requalification on “Affordable” ownership should not be required as long as owning other residential real estate is prohibited (see question 2).

 

7. How should the sale/rent price be set?

7G: This is a technical question and the Joint Housing Authority Board should provide a policy recommendation, based on an analysis of the current program. It is unclear whether there is a problem with the current system and if any of the proposed alternatives and data would improve it. We recommend answering several questions, including:

  • Are the homes affordable to the current occupants?
  • Are households able to pay more for housing? If so, how much?
  • Are households paying too much for housing? If so, how much?

We offer some suggestions for consideration to the options proposed:

  • Make sure the methodology to calculate initial sales prices and rental rates is clear, transparent, and easy to update.
  • Set initial sales prices for Employment-based units and Workforce ownership units to serve households earning at or below 200% AMI.
  • Interest rates significantly affect the affordable purchase price of homes. For every 1%-point rise, the purchasing power of a household decreases by about 10%.  This needs to be considered when establishing prices for new affordable homes.

 

8. How should restricted ownership homes be valued at resale?

8A: Maintain status quo until an analysis can be completed to evaluate the inventory of affordable housing and see which alternative is creating affordable outcomes over time.  There is an opportunity to analyze these alternatives because the housing program has been in existence for 25 years and there is a supply of affordable housing units to evaluate. This is in contrast to arbitrarily selecting alternatives without basis.

 

9. How should renting or subletting be handled?

9C: Owners should be able to rent rooms to other local workers. This especially makes sense for owners of employment-based homes. Currently, no homeowners may have roommates. This may make sense in income-limited (e.g. Category 1-3) homes, where roommates put household income over the limit. However, for employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And if roommates do not push an income-limited owner over the income limit, that should be allowed too. Ultimately, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce.

 

10. How should the buy/sell process work?

10 None of the Above: Streamline and simplify the lottery system by removing all preferences (including for critical service providers and for length of time living here).  This will allow access to all members of the workforce in an equitable manner, which is the appropriate use of local, state and federal tax dollars as well as developer exactions.  It also makes the selection process transparent, easy to understand, and far less costly to administer. Finally, instead of being perceived as a system where people are rewarded for “earning” affordable housing because of how much they’ve contributed, it is a simple and equitable system that – once people are in affordable homes – ensures they can stay and contribute to our community.

 

11. What types of relief should be allowed from the Rules & Regulations?

11D: Formalize the appeals process, clarify the process and set standards for making determinations. Make the appeals process and determination criteria available to the public in a transparent manner.

 

12. How should new Rules & Regulations be applied to existing units?

12E: The Special Restrictions should at a minimum include terms and conditions related to occupancy, use and resale. Instead of relying on public comment, legal advice should be sought to determine what needs to be in the Special Restriction or Ground Lease to protect the community asset, what can be contained in the Rules and Regulations, and which set of Rules & Regulations must be referenced. If a rental product, the relevant and current Rules & Regulations should be incorporated in the lease agreement.

 

Thank you for your consideration and these technical issues.  Again, we respectfully recommend that the next step is a technical, data-driven analysis of the existing housing program with review by and recommendations from the Joint Housing Authority Board. Please be in touch with any questions if we can help.

 

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Team Chair

ShelterJH

,

How will “housing mitigation” help us?

Housing mitigation is a key piece in the puzzle of how to make it possible for us to live here. It means that new development has to build (or pay for) workforce housing, instead of making things worse. The town and county have asked for public input on a series of questions as part of their Engage2017 planning work. The ShelterJH policy team dug deep into the questions and wrote the following letter to our elected representatives. We hope it helps explain what mitigation is and how it can help. Make sure to share your ideas with the Town Council and County Commission! Contact us with any questions at info@shelterjh.org, and please become a member and build our power today!

 

Re: Housing Mitigation Policies

Dear Mayor Muldoon, Town Councilors, and County Commissioners:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your housing mitigation policies. ShelterJH is a membership organization that works to ensure that all who work in Jackson can have a home here.

As you know, our housing crisis is getting worse. We’re losing affordable homes every year to rent increases, vacation rentals, and gentrification. Every day we lose more of our essential workers to surrounding communities. More teachers, nurses, cooks, dishwashers, and police (and everyone else) are commuting from places where they can afford the rent or, if they are lucky, buy their own homes. When people commute, we lose critical service providers on-site, and we lose volunteers and active members of our community. Therefore, as we consider changes to housing mitigation polices, we should always ask what the changes will do for our workers and community – especially our community members in the most vulnerable situations.

One of the main reasons we have a sizable stock of affordable/workforce housing is that developers have provided homes as part of their developments. Lacking this tool, we would be in a far worse situation. And, it has become increasingly clear that even our current requirements are too low – our housing need keeps increasing as our overheated tourism industry continues to create new low-paying jobs.

We believe the policy questions, as written, are difficult to understand – even for housing industry veterans – so we hope that you will forgive any misunderstandings as we attempt to answer them. We recommend that you establish a housing expert task force – different from a “stakeholder’s group” – to provide clear guidance on these policies after you receive public input.

 

1. What segments of the workforce should housing mitigation be for?

1B: housing mitigation should cover both year-round and peak seasonal employees.

Note: existing residential inclusionary zoning is a completely different policy from mitigation, so the status quo is actually that commercial mitigation only covers peak seasonal employees.  Lumping these two separate and distinct policies together (inclusionary zoning and commercial mitigation) is confusing, and we should clearly distinguish their purposes and use. See questions 3/4/5 below.

 

2. What portion of the workforce generated by development should be housed through mitigation? (the rest will be housed through other tools, or commute)

2A, with a caveat: we should mitigate for 65% of all workers, because that is our housing goal. It is important to mitigate for workers of all income levels that can’t find free market options, which includes people earning up to 200% area median income (AMI). We do not believe it is legal to require mitigation for more than 65% of our workers, as that is the level we need to “keep up” with our goal. The community will need to use other tools to “catch up” to our existing need, such as SPET measures and incentive zoning.

 

3/4/5. How should the housing mitigation requirement be imposed?

3/4/5C: All housing mitigation should be done through employee generation mitigation requirements. Inclusionary zoning is a different tool that exists to prevent exclusionary zoning (whether by policy or de facto) and should be used with any annexations or complete neighborhood expansions. Mitigation requires a nexus, which is what your Employee Generation Study provides. This is probably the most important aspect of your mitigation policies, and we offer the following recommendations:

Require commercial mitigation for all employees generated. Currently, commercial mitigation only applies to the peak seasonal employees generated.  This leaves out all the year-round employees that the new business generates.  All employees have an impact, not just peak summer and winter season employees. New commercial development should be mitigating for all of them.  A mechanism to provide reductions from this standard for small businesses could be incorporated, such as the one used in Aspen that scales the requirement based on number of employees generated.

Increase mitigation on commercial development with commensurate density bonus. The current mitigation rate only requires a small portion of the employees generated to be housed, which transfers the burden to the community to create this housing.  Requiring a higher mitigation rate in conjunction with an increase in FAR allows a developer to create the required housing on-site which can remain an asset for the success of the new business long-term and provides housing options for more of the employees generated.

Reduce mitigation categories & use average rates. Currently, there are many categories for commercial mitigation – office, retail, restaurant/bar, lodging, etc. We recommend combining and averaging some uses that currently trigger change of use fees. Categories may include: residential, lodging / short-term-rental, nonresidential, institutional/public/semi-public.

Eliminate change of use mitigation with existing structures. When a use changes within an existing structure, it may trigger a mitigation fee.  This impacts existing businesses and discourages new restaurants, which have a much higher mitigation rate compared to office or retail use.  It is also complex and resource-intensive to manage.  Instead, average the mitigation rates and assess at time of development to eliminate the change of use fees.

Require mitigation on market-rate residential development. Market-rate ownership product is out of reach for all but a few local employees and more often provides an option for part-time or seasonal residents. These transient occupants generate more service employees than a home occupied by a full-time resident. Mitigation rates should reflect the increased impacts from market rate residential development. A mechanism to provide reductions from this standard for local occupancy could be incorporated, such as a recorded document used in Summit County, Colorado.

Require 1-for-1 replacement of any existing workforce housing units. Our housing mitigation rules should require 1-for-1 replacement of any workforce units destroyed during development. This is different from, and additional to, mitigating the workforce generation of the new development. Some new development both knocks down existing affordable/workforce housing and builds new high-end homes or commercial use that require mitigation. For example, the Marriott hotel knocked down a number of de-facto-affordable mobile homes. For easier explanation, imagine a simpler project: a developer buys a single lot with one mobile home. They knock down that home and build 4 new homes. One of the new units has to be affordable based on mitigation – but that just keeps up with the 3 new market-rate homes. But before this development, that parcel was net positive +1 workforce home. After the development, our community is worse off than before. As a result, we should require that developers replace any workforce units. The way to define which units count as workforce units is to use the same list as in the “exempt workforce housing uses” shown below in question #8.  

  What’s on the site Workforce units Impact on workforce housing
Existing conditions 1 mobile home 1 unit
After existing unit is knocked down Nothing 0 units -1 unit
After new development is built 3 market-rate condos and one affordable unit required by mitigation 1 unit to keep up with the 3 market-rate units Still -1 unit
If we require 1-for-1 replacement 3 market-rate condos and one affordable unit (mitigation) and one workforce unit (replacement) 1 unit to keep up with the 3 market-rate units

and

1 unit to replace the mobile home

Back to net zero

 

6. What type of housing should be provided through housing mitigation requirements?

6C: All mitigation housing should have minimum and maximum standards. All units should have access to kitchens and bathrooms (even if shared such as in a dormitory building). Allow the developer flexibility in the provision of unit types and tenancy (ownership or rental) to enable the required units to better meet the needs of the business long-term.

The methodology to calculate the requirement and the resulting mitigation should be square footage based instead of bedroom/occupant based. To simplify the code for development professionals and the public, the town and county regulations should be the same.

 

7. What methods for providing required housing mitigation will be allowed and preferred?

7C: Prioritize new on-site units for developments in complete neighborhoods. Our biggest challenge in creating new housing options for local workers is the availability of land in complete neighborhoods. Allowing units to be built off-site results in fewer locations to meet our workforce housing goals. Fee-in lieu and the purchase of “credits” should be prioritized for developments outside of complete neighborhoods to enable construction of units in appropriate locations and consistent with comprehensive plan goals.

Establish a “credit” system which allows developers that are not accessing public funds to build additional workforce housing in their project and allows them to sell “credits” for these additional units to other developers to meet their housing requirements. This encourage developers to build more workforce housing in their projects similar to the program used with Powderhorn Employee Housing. Set stringent standards for the use of existing housing stock to ensure a net gain in the supply and quality of workforce housing inventory.

 

8. What types of development should be exempt from housing mitigation requirements and why?

8B: Exemptions to encourage the private sector to produce workforce housing have been successful and should remain.  This includes housing units restricted for the workforce in some way, even though they are not restricted for affordability, such as accessory residential units, any housing bonus incentive, mobile home parks, rental apartments of a certain size, and alternate restrictions used by non-profit housing organizations and businesses.  These exemptions act as incentives to encourage the type of development that creates housing options for local workers.  Unless an appropriate deed restriction is added, these alternative approaches should not be allowed to meet the housing requirements of the new development or another development.

Please eliminate exemptions that do not provide workforce housing. Current exemptions that should be eliminated include live-work, one lot split of a residential lot into two lots, and the first 2,500 square feet of single-family dwellings. A mechanism to provide relief from this standard for local occupancy could be incorporated, such as that used in Summit County, Colorado. Additionally, Institutional Uses should not be exempt from the housing standards as currently is the case.

Please eliminate the “credit” in redevelopment for existing residential unless it can be shown that the new residential use will be similar to the old residential use. Compliance with the “rough proportionality” standard is important. However, the exemption for existing uses prior to the adoption of the requirements should be amended to reflect the true impact of replacing existing residential (that houses local workers) with new residential (that targets part-time residents). This is to stop actions such as what happened with the Marriott knocking down affordable trailers and somehow counting those affordable trailers as “credits” against their housing requirements. The new residential built no longer houses local workers and instead 1-bedroom penthouse condominiums are listed between $1,200,000 and $1,602,000. These units are obviously not targeting local workers, and the employees generated from non-local tenancy condominiums is higher than local resident single-family. Therefore, impacts can be assessed and mitigated while preserving the “rough proportionality” standard.

 

9. What type of relief from the housing mitigation requirements should be allowed?

9A: “Relief” should only be allowed inasmuch as it is legally required. Consultants can always provide an “independent calculation” showing that their project is unique and should provide less than normal mitigation. We should discourage this as much as possible and require some form of long-term assurance that the actual impact is commensurate with the “independent calculation.” Also, the term “relief” makes it sound like housing mitigation is a bad thing, when in fact it is a positive policy that we need to keep Jackson the place we know and love.

 

10. How should the updated mitigation requirements be applied to approved, but not yet built, development?

10B: If a project has not been built after many years, new requirements should apply. Additionally, out-of-date masterplans should be updated with new housing requirements when possible (at any time of re-negotiation).

 

Thank you for your consideration on these extremely complex issues. Again, we respectfully recommend that you form a housing expert task force, and we offer our participation. Please be in touch with any questions.

 

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Team Chair

ShelterJH

 

 

,

30-day notice tenant protection hangs on by a thread

Despite a last-minute push to stop it, Jackson’s first tenant protection – a 30-day notice requirement – passed its “first reading” tonight, and is on track to become law.

Every new town law must be approved three times, with public hearings every time – a great way to make sure that a community really wants that law, and gets input. The mayor and town council have also held a number of meetings and workshops about tenant protections, and heard extensive public input about how dire the rental market is (as well as hearing from a few lawyers and property managers who are paid by landlords and said there isn’t any problem for renters in Jackson).

Tonight was the first reading, and at first it seemed things were going smoothly for the 30-day notice requirement. The only public comment was support from Barbara Prescott of Teton County Access to Justice (previously on KHOL). Mayor Muldoon spoke for the tenant protection, and Councilor Jim Stanford did too.

Things took a turn when Councilor Bob Lenz said he would vote against it – because he thought it should be 50 days, not 30 days, and because he thought the maximum fine (set by state law) was too high. But he was open to discussion.

The real pushback came from Councilor Don Frank, who declared that “This ordinance is inequitable. There’s nothing in this ordinance that protects landlords. It’s a very one-sided ordinance.” Don spoke for many minutes about how this small step toward protecting tenants is unfair to landlords. We are shocked that he seems not to realize that the current housing market is extremely biased in favor of landlords – so this law is one small step towards making things more fair. But he went on in his opposition to the law.

Council also wanted to learn more about how the law would be enforced. Town Attorney Audrey Cohen-Davis and Assistant Attorney Lea Colasuonno provided excellent information in response, answering all of council’s questions with clear and detailed replies. This information seemed to assure council that the enforcement of the law would be handled well.

Before council voted, Don Frank made another attempt to stop the law, appealing to his fellow councilmembers to focus on educating tenants on what they should do differently, instead of passing a law to give them protection from unjust treatment.

Hailey Morton-Levinson had not expressed many opinions yet – making it unclear if the bill would pass or fail.

At the end of the night, the mayor called for the vote, and it was 3-2 in favor!

Voting for 30-day notice: Mayor Pete Muldoon, Jim Stanford, and Hailey Morton-Levinson.

Voting against: Don Frank and Bob Lenz.

ShelterJH applauds the council for taking another step in the direction of protecting our hard-working local renters.

What you can do:

,

ShelterJH urges the Town Council to vote to approve the Housing Supply Plan

Dear Mayor Muldoon and Councilors,

ShelterJH urges the Town Council to vote to approve the Housing Supply Plan 2017-2021 and support its implementation.  Shelter JH thanks the Housing Department and the Housing Supply Board for compiling a plan that contains relevant data, thoughtful ways to address the challenge, and a realistic path forward.

In particular, the Housing Supply Plan does a great job of showing the annual workforce housing need compared to the number of workforce housing units in the pipeline.  What stands out is that there are few units proposed that serve households earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

For this reason, we encourage the Council to prioritize Capital Projects that serve households earning less than 80% of the AMI when developing workforce housing on publicly owned land or utilizing public funds to provide workforce housing options. These families more commonly face severe housing costs, overcrowding, homes with physical deficiencies, and housing instability.  This directly translates to higher social service costs, decreased health outcomes and lower educational achievement for a large segment of our fellow workers.

According to your 2014 Housing Needs Assessment, Households earning less than 50% AMI are particularly hard hit by the housing crisis in our valley – 77% are cost burdened, or paying more than 30% of their gross income toward housing.  When housing payments exceed 30%, households have insufficient residual income to afford other necessities like food, transportation and health care.

The Housing Supply Plan also demonstrates the great work that has been done to get workforce housing units in the pipeline and the amount of work still needed to meet our housing goals.  We encourage the Council to consider additional capacity within the Housing Department to effectively manage all the new units that are coming on line and to implement the proposed Capital Projects, Capital Programs, Housing LDR updates, and the Education & Outreach ongoing and proposed efforts.

Thank you for your continued efforts to provide safe, decent and affordable housing for your hard-working constituents and for considering ShelterJH’s request to approve the Housing Supply Plan 2017-2021 and support its implementation.

 

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Chair

Shelter JH

,

A step forward for tenant protections

After months of debate over whether we should enact tenant protections, Town Council voted today to get started with a “30-day notice requirement” ordinance. This is a good first step for our tenants, and we’re excited that the Council is taking action.

What are tenant protections? Wyoming laws disproportionately favor landlords and provide virtually no protections to tenants, and our local ordinances contain nothing at all on the subject of landlord-tenant law. When we don’t take care of our employees, it’s not only bad for them as human beings, it harms our community and economy by making it difficult for business owners to retain quality employees. Read more details here.

Who doesn’t want tenant protections? Town Council heard a report from the stakeholder taskforce they appointed a couple months ago. Three people on the taskforce were landlords or property managers who absolutely refused to even consider new ordinances for tenant protections. Kevin Kavanagh of the Clear Creek Group (known for $100,000 a week short-term rentals and for breaking short-term rental rules) spoke at today’s meeting, saying that any ordinances would be “governmental overreach,” and claiming that even a 30-day notice requirement would result in landlords taking rentals off the market. Kavanagh also said that there’s no “data” to show that we have a problem, so any tenant protections are “a solution in search of a problem.” This idea is astonishing to those of us who rent and experience problems every day. Another landlord, Todd Oliver of the Blair Place Apartments, who tried to raise rents 40% in one fell swoop two years ago, said that people should just get leases – something that is impossible for many tenants who have no negotiating power.

Who does want tenant protections? A number of tenants, including Jorge Moreno and Jeremy Weiss, spoke about their experiences being evicted with little notice, ranging from 3 to 20 days – after years of renting the same house. Jessica Chambers also asked the council to enact tenant protections, for the most vulnerable members of our community. And Mary Erickson and Rosie Read, both on the task force, spoke in favor of tenant protections – not just 30-day notice, but also non-discrimination (based on immigration status and gender identity / sexual orientation) and repairs to major appliances. Read, who is an attorney, noted that even she hasn’t been able to obtain a lease for her current residence. “Just get a lease” is not a solution.

What did the council decide? The council voted to direct staff to prepare a tenant / landlord education resource (which is great, but not tenant protections), and to bring back more information about a 30-day notice ordinance. Mayor Muldoon tried to expand the motion to include research into non-discrimination, requiring leases, and restating and clarifying the state tenant/landlord laws, but Councilor Hailey Morton-Levinson shot that down, twice. Morton-Levinson said she wouldn’t consider those other ideas (which we’ve been asking for) now, but that the mayor could bring back more-detailed proposals for the council to discuss.

What’s ShelterJH’s take? We’re glad the council is taking a first step towards tenant protections. We hope the council will quickly write and adopt a tenant protection ordinance that includes a 30-day notice requirement – and also include non-discrimination, as well as a requirement for leases and the repair of major appliances by landlords.

What’s your take? Email the council and mayor at council@townofjackson.com to let them know!

And please become a ShelterJH member today, to help build power for tenants through work like this!