Our electeds officially formed a new regional housing authority to be run jointly by the town and county. Community opposition ran the gamut from staunch opposition to subsidized housing to skepticism about how the housing authority has operated to date.
Commissioner Mark Newcomb and councilor Bob Lenz were not on board with the vote. They both questioned why government wanted to be so involved with housing people.
One quote that jumped out at us came from Mayor Sara Flitner. While many in the audience and many in the valley—IF they were inclined to accept government playing a role in subsidized housing—believe affordable housing should be tailored to the truly needy and low-income members of our community, Flitner said this:
“…I’m more concerned about highly paid people like teachers and an attorney I know who can’t afford a home here. Right now, even a $100,000 salary and a bottomless work ethic can’t guarantee you a roof over your head in this community.”
Do you want to tax yourself to pay for a lawyer’s house in Jackson?
Town and county leaders also voted to ask you for $6 million to fix the Budge landslide. This, despite public comment in opposition and polls showing a majority of taxpayers don’t like the idea of having to bail out Walgreens and the town’s poor decision to allow the major pharmacy chain to carve into an unstable hillside.
“Who signed off on this?” asked concerned citizen Pam Walton at the meeting.
Save Historic Jackson Hole is very skeptical of the latest plan from the commissioners and councilors. Electeds have acknowledged that the current Housing Authority has sometimes ran roughshod in their pursuit of questionable projects that don’t seem to put enough low-income housing on the ground and, in the case of The Grove, have run into cost overruns. Their solution is leaning toward doubling the size of the Housing Authority by creating a new government department under the leadership of a new hire (Housing Director) who is expected to earn up to $161k a year.
The existing Housing Authority will be responsible for simply managing what affordable housing units are already on the ground. This is worrisome. The two organizations will undoubtedly butt heads. Adding to the annual $810k housing authority budget doesn’t seem to be a solution either.
Their isn’t even dedicated and sustainable funding in place yet for housing. And that’s another issue. Are we prepared to tax ourselves to fill a few more government cubicles?
Look for Save Historic Jackson Hole’s ad in the 2-17-16 News&Guide weekly paper.
In an effort to inform and educate the community we thought it the right time to question the effectiveness of the Teton County Housing Authority to date. They have owned land—purchased with taxpayer money—that they have not built housing on. Some parcels have gone unused for a decade or more. They have built housing that does not target low- or even mid-income families. And they have mismanaged funds. They can do better.
The answer is not hiring more people to do their job. Some of the blame lies with our electeds. County Commissioners have not demanded more accountability and better results.
Before we make decisions to create new positions and government departments, let’s make be sure we are fixing problems and not merely buying new ones with money we don’t have.