I have been told some thoughts I have expressed in my blog aren’t very compassionate. I can see why some might come to that conclusion.
I am sorry.
This blog is going to be based on compassion.
This spring, meetings have been held, homeless families have been used as props in the housing debate and frankly, I find it super sad. The folks that do this have exactly zero solutions to offer folks in immediate need. Instead, they seem to want to lay blame at the feet of our current elected officials. While I am always happy to pick on them, they are not the cause of this immediate problem.
It is creating a bizarre world.
So-called conservation groups are now preaching for growth. Housing, and by the thousands they say, is the only way to solve it – housing right here in Jackson and paid for by local government.
They have embraced sprawl.
These groups have ironically embraced a corporate welfare mentality by promoting government supplied housing for employees of private companies.
A subsidy for a housing unit is somewhere around 400,000 to a half million.
The push to house a certain percentage of the workforce in this valley is folly.
Not only do planners admit they can’t actually measure the percentage, they don’t have any answer for how other than to build 2400 homes in the Town of Jackson.
Bad numbers and flawed analytics have been a part of the planning process for years. In 2007 the housing data said we had 65% of the workforce living in Teton County. But it also said that was dropping by 3 percent per year.
If they were right, we would today only be housing 40 % of our workforce. Of course that’s not true.
The use of this 65% goal has actually masked obvious solutions for housing that, had they been in place all this time, would have lessened the tragedy we face right now.
It is a good thing to call out a problem and put a face on it and it is also a good thing to embrace practical solutions.
I’ll get to practical in a minute. For now, though, let’s talk about ‘Not Practical’. (Trigger warning: you may want to find a safe space in case this generates a micro aggression or two)
It is not practical to create a tent city, as some have proposed. If you step back and look at this idea, you could conclude that it inhumane, that the idea suggests our workers are nothing more than a commodity. Labor camps are not a good fit for our valley.
It is not practical to build 2400 houses in Jackson. A few hundred? Sure, but not thousands. We have too many people here now and the effects of that are obvious. There is no way to build our way out of this crisis.
It is not practical to put accessory units on every lot in every neighborhood. Trust me, you do not want one on the lot next door. It costs too much to build one of these and even if you did, you would have to charge a market rate to ever pay it off.
What is practical is also obvious. Commuter communities, such as Victor and Alpine, exist everywhere in the world. For some reason, though, this is never part of the discussion. Every city and resort town on the planet relies on commuter communities and seldom are they considered as less than desirable.
In commuter communities, people can do things like buy a home, build equity, have a future.
In commuter communities, it is still possible to construct an apartment building without the expense of contradictory regulations.
For the price of one housing subsidy, we can buy a bus that will provide safe transit for hundreds living in a commuter community. We can and we should increase commuter runs and I think the Town and County are going to do that because it is one of few tools that they have to deal with employee housing.
It is practical for the public/private affordable housing projects to be built. The Housing Trust and Habitat have a strong track record of successful development. But, as I said, we can’t build our way out of it.
It is practical to let private business provide housing for their private employees, but you have to let them have the option of doing it on-site or in our commuter communities.
The idea that we should blindly follow the 65% goal is silly. The barn door on that has been open for twenty years and the whole herd is scattered to hell and beyond.
You can’t fix it.
It’s too late.
Decisions we made in the past have failed us. Let’s stop pursuing bad ideas and embrace the practical. It’s compassionate.