Contact: Brenna Cannon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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)
Contact email@example.com 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
April 11, 2018
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
ShelterJH is all of us
PO Box 2692
Jackson, WY 83001