Change the rules for housing in Jackson

Now’s the time to make a difference in how we do housing in Jackson!

The Housing Department is taking public input on their “Housing Supply Plan,” which outlines how much housing we need for what income levels – and how to get there. Read the plan in English or Spanish, and comment by September 26 by email (council@townofjackson.com and commissioners@tetonwyo.org) or in person (3pm on October 2 at the county building, 200 S. Willow St).

And at the same time, the Planning Department is taking public input on two different sets of rules:

  1. Housing Requirements: who should pay for affordable housing? Who should be allowed to live in it? How much should it cost? (English meeting Oct 9, Spanish meeting Oct 2 – 6pm)
  2. Land and parking ruleswhat kind of homes should we build, and how many? Should we reduce parking requirements? (English meeting Nov 8, Spanish meeting Nov 6 – 6pm)

Stay tuned for our analysis, and in the meantime, read the plan and formulate your own opinion – and share it with our elected representatives!

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Letter to council: workforce camping (3/3/17)

March 3, 2017

Mayor Muldoon and Jackson Town Council
P.O. Box 1687
Jackson, WY 83001
council@townofjackson.com

RE: April Joint Information Meeting Agenda Item
Summer Camping in Public Parking Lots

Dear Mayor Muldoon and Councilors,

Shelter JH respectfully requests the following item to be placed on the April Joint Information Meeting Agenda: Summer Camping in Public Parking Lots.

The summer season is rapidly approaching and is forecast to be the busiest tourist season on record. Additionally, few new housing units for working folks have been added to an already low inventory of secure housing in our community or our bedroom communities down valley and over the hill.

This seasonal increase in employees (demand) and low housing inventory (supply) places our most vulnerable populations at risk of finding any secure housing. As witnessed last summer, it is likely desperate measures will be taken to find basic shelter, such as people sleeping in cars, families camping, seasonal employees cramming into old motel rooms, people sleeping in shifts in beds, and single moms living in mold infested units.

Shelter JH urges the Town Council to consider ordinances that allow summer camping in public parking lots and provide associated facilities to protect the public health, safety and welfare of its constituents. This short-term answer to our housing crisis is necessary until long-term solutions can be implemented.

Thank you for considering Shelter JH’s request to further conversations regarding summer camping in public parking lots to create short-term secure housing options for all members of our local workforce.

Sincerely,

Christine Walker
Policy Chair
Shelter JH

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Tenant protections workshop response letter, March 10 2017

March 9, 2017

Mayor Muldoon and Jackson Town Council

P.O. Box 1687

Jackson, WY 83001

council@townofjackson.com

 

RE:           Tenant Protections

Dear Mayor Muldoon and Councilors,

Thank you for holding an informative and in-depth workshop regarding tenant protections in January. We were very encouraged to hear your support for our neighbors living in the toughest conditions, and look forward to seeing what your legal team brings back for your next meeting. We support the idea of starting with areas that the community can agree upon, such as requiring adequate notice before a rent increase and addressing health and safety issues.

We would like to offer a few points of clarification regarding the various topics you discussed:

1. Non-discrimination: our federal Fair Housing Act includes seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. In the staff report, your legal team identified only one additional class you might want to protect: transgender people. Two important additional classes for protection are left out: sexual orientation and immigration status. These classes are not protected under federal law; they could be under local law.

Please include sexual orientation and immigration status as protected classes in our municipality, and make it illegal to discriminate when it comes to housing, based on these categories.

2. Non-retaliation: your legal team also told you that the federal Fair Housing laws already covers non-retaliation. But that’s only the case when landlords retaliate against tenants for standing up for their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act. So it doesn’t cover retaliation against tenants for fighting discrimination that isn’t covered by federal law (see above), or for anything else like safety issues, repairs, insufficient notice, etc.

Please add non-retaliation for situations not covered by the Fair Housing Act.

3. Habitability: your discussion focused on health and safety issues with homes, such as mold or working plumbing. As your legal team pointed out, most of these issues are already covered under state law. Our hope in raising this issue in a previous letter was that you would consider also covering repairs to major essential appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, because that is not currently covered under state law.

Please include major (critical) appliances in your habitability/repairs ordinance 

4. Support for landlords: also on the topic of repairs, we respectfully request that you consider setting up a low- or no-interest loan fund for landlords who want to make the required repairs to their homes. This will prevent the negative effect where some landlords may decide it’s too expensive to make the repairs, and instead they’ll stop renting places long-term to our workers. A loan fund will provide an incentive to make needed repairs. If you want to be sure that public funds have clear public benefit, you could include a requirement that landlords accessing these funds promise to rent at an affordable rate until the loan is paid back.

Please use existing funds designated for affordable housing to support “preservation” of existing affordable housing stock.

Also, we would like to offer our help if you do put together a stakeholder committee; a representative of Shelter JH would be interested and willing to participate.

Again, thanks for your energy and effort for our neighbors in the hardest housing situations.

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Chair

Shelter JH

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Tenant protections – letter to council Nov 20, 2016

November 19, 2016

Mayor Flitner and Jackson Town Council

Tenant protections in the Town of Jackson

Dear Mayor Flitner and Councilors,

Shelter JH is encouraged that you are discussing tenant protections in Jackson. As we have worked with our membership of tenants and low-income workers, we have found a tremendous need for basic 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.

We recognize you are working hard to provide housing and to encourage the private sector to do the same. We also support you taking action to protect those of us who have found housing and are vulnerable to mistreatment because we lack leverage and legal protections.

We have investigated options for what our Town can do, and researched what other communities have done. We believe it would be prudent to start with easier actions, such as notice requirements or non-retaliation rules, assess how they go, and then tackle more challenging and impactful areas, such as rent stabilization measures. Understanding that resolutions do not allow for enforcement, we ask that you pass ordinances and assist with changing the behavior of those that choose to mistreat tenants. Here are six areas we recommend discussing:

  1. Notice requirements

The Town could pass an ordinance establishing a minimum of 30 days (for monthly lease) or 60 days (on a longer lease) notice before (1) no-cause eviction, (2) non-renewal of lease, (3) rent increase.

  1. Habitability and repairs

The Town could pass an ordinance that requires landlords to (1) maintain a minimum standard of habitability (including heat and appliances like stoves and refrigerators, beyond the plumbing, electricity and running water standard required by the state), and (2) make repairs to property as needed to keep premises in condition in which they were rented, other than to repair damage caused by tenant. This would, in addition to water/electricity as currently required. The Town could then create an inspection program, similar to how HUD requires habitability inspections for units rented with federal funding. The Town could also establish a small fund to support landlords in making these repairs.

  1. Fair Housing / Non-discrimination

The Town could pass an ordinance that prohibits discrimination against tenants, or potential tenants, in addition to existing federal Fair Housing protections. This ordinance would protect people based on immigration status and sexual orientation – two areas that are not protected by federal laws.

  1. Non-retaliation

The Town could pass an ordinance stating that landlords may not retaliate against tenants who exercise their other rights.

  1. Lease content and renewal

The Housing Department could provide a “standard lease” that includes all of the rights as outlined in the other sections here, to ensure that leases are in compliance. Additionally, the Town could pass an ordinance establishing (1) a “first right of refusal” when a lease is available for renewal and the existing tenants haven’t violated their lease in any way, (2) leases automatically default to month-to-month leases upon expiration of previous lease.

  1. Rent increase cap, a.k.a. rent stabilization

The Town could pass an ordinance preventing egregious rent increases. This is not “rent control,” but simply a limit on how much landlords can raise rent in a year. We recommend working with stakeholders including landlords, tenants, business owners and housing advocates to determine the appropriate percentage – for example, we know 20% or 40% are too much, but perhaps 3% or 5% or something similar, tied to inflation, would be acceptable.

Thank you for considering these options. Please know we truly appreciate your commitment to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community through tenant protections. ShelterJH is ready and willing to support your work through legal research, research into what ordinances have been effective in other communities, and conversations with the public and stakeholders.

 

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Chair

ShelterJH