ShelterJH Community Housing Platform
ShelterJH, the only independent housing advocacy organization in Teton County, builds grassroots and political support so that all of our community members have a choice to live where they work.
Our housing market is not functioning for the vast majority of the people who make this community function, particularly our essential workers including teachers, nurses, firefighters, cooks, dishwashers, housekeepers, fishing guides, and small business owners. For decades we have been working to address this housing challenge, and yet the housing crisis continues to worsen, impacting the health and resiliency of our community.
This platform is our recommendation to candidates for Mayor, Town Council, and County Commission who want to be housing champions–and a list of solutions that interested community members can use to start conversations with and evaluate candidates.
It takes a community to build a community. Meaning, we need to set up an environment for collaboration, empowering all segments of our community to participate effectively to accelerate housing solutions. We support a novel approach that brings together all key stakeholders (housing and social service organizations, businesses, large landowners, realtors, conservationists, developers, etc.) in a partnership framework that is fully staffed and facilitated to solve our housing challenge together. This approach has worked in the Tahoe region.
- Dedicated Public Funding
It is not possible to construct a modest dwelling unit that a median income earning family can afford to purchase or rent in Teton County without substantial investment. There is no profit – in fact there is a short-fall or subsidy needed to build places to live for people earning less than about 200% of median income, and that investment increases as household incomes decrease. The investment can come from local public funds, state/federal public funds (less than 80% AMI), philanthropy, density bonuses, and to a lesser extent regulatory relief. Also, in recent budgeting processes even modest amounts requested by the Housing Department and the community were not funded. We support a permanent and dedicated local and/or state source(s) of revenue that generates at least $5M annually to create and preserve homes that local workers can afford to rent or purchase, consistent with the objectives of the Comprehensive Plan. We have the opportunity to build on our community’s support in 2019 for a housing SPET measure, dedicate funds from the potential 2020 general penny (which we support for this reason), and defend the use of lodging tax funds to address visitor impacts to our housing needs. We also support new state revenue streams such as a real estate transfer tax and see an opportunity for progress in Cheyenne over the next two years with a common desire to diversify state funding options. To protect this community investment, we insist on permanent deed-restrictions, regardless of whether the investment is in the form of direct funding, density bonuses or regulatory relief.
- Allocation of Public Funds
Any public funds collected should be held in a dedicated fund and distributed equitably based on a simple, transparent, regular, and timely allocation system, allowing access to any organization interested in addressing our housing needs. We support establishing a Community Housing Fund with an independent, appointed board, similar to the Lodging Tax Board, that is responsible for allocating funds. There are more than 800 Housing Trust Funds in the U.S created by governmental entities to support the construction, acquisition, and preservation of affordable housing and related services to meet housing needs.
- Prioritize creating homes for locals that are permanently affordable
Over the last decade, our community has eliminated tools that incentivized and mandated the inclusion of homes for locals that are permanently affordable, such as the Affordable Housing Planned Unit Development (AH-PUD) and Inclusionary Zoning (requiring most units created by an up-zone to be permanently affordable to local workers). In addition, our zoning codes contain barriers to building anything other than single-family homes, the most expensive product type of the spectrum of housing choices available to our community. We support bringing back Inclusionary Zoning for all annexations and up-zones and/or the AH-PUD overlay. This creates transparency on community benefit expectations for any up-zones and annexations, without the emotion generated from a specific development proposal.We also support amending the Land Development Regulations to diversify housing options in town, Wilson, the Aspens, and the other “complete neighborhoods” outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. These house-scale buildings (duplexes, fourplexes, cottage courts, and multiplexes) fit seamlessly into existing residential neighborhoods and support walkability, locally-serving retail, and public transportation options. They provide “missing middle” options that are less expensive to construct and maintain, address the mismatch between the available housing stock and household sizes, and meet the growing demand for walkability.
- Northern South Park
We’re excited about the opportunity to provide homes for local workers in Northern South Park and address our housing crisis. We believe it’s the right place and the right time. As a “yes in my backyard” organization, it pains us to have to say no to the proposal as it stands. We have learned over the years that unless there is a deed restriction tied to specific incomes and with an appreciation cap to ensure permanent affordability, only the most advantaged people working here can gain access to these places to live. The “workforce” restriction preferred by developers does not assure permanent affordability, making any up-zones available only to the 3% of working households in Teton County that earn enough to purchase a home built on these lots (which are estimated to sell for well over $1 million). The proposed offer to give 30-40 lots to Habitat (~10%) is a good start, but if the other 90% of homes are $1 million, $2 million, and up, we are not serving our whole community. Even if additional lots are sold through other employers, that doesn’t assure affordability and creates employer-run housing which feels uncomfortably like a “company town” model. This is a false pretense of solving our housing affordability crisis. That 10% must be substantially increased so that enough housing created by the up-zone would be permanently available and affordable to working residents earning median income or less. As a ballpark, that means home sale prices in the $300,000 to $500,000 range–far from current estimates of new home prices. To protect this community investment, the affordability should be required through foolproof and proven permanent deed restrictions, recorded on the lots at the time of the up zone. We support this “inclusionary” approach in all up zones, not just on the Gill proposal. Read our whole comment letter here.
- COVID-19 Tenant Protections
COVID has created a huge threat to our community’s health, and this threat is sharpest to lower-income and working-class community members. Local human service agencies have already provided rent assistance to hundreds of families who have never asked for help before, and they are struggling to keep up with the need. Especially as federal benefits decrease, many community members and families will face eviction and increased health risks. We support a moratorium on evictions due to inability to pay rent for the duration of the pandemic. We also support creating state and local funding streams to compensate landlords for lost rent, given the expiration of and difficulty to access CARES funding. We need local government to take the lead in learning about and creating solutions for our vulnerable tenants.
- Landing Locals
It is currently much easier and more profitable for local landlords to rent their homes to visitors (through platforms like Airbnb) than to local workers. We support bringing Landing Locals to our community, an emerging effort to create an “Airbnb for local workers,” because we know many landlords (including second homeowners) want to do the right thing and provide homes for local workers but need resources to make the rental process easier and trustworthy.