NOT FOR RENT: Housing tight, working class squeezed out

By on August 20, 2013

82113feature1JACKSON HOLE, WYO - I usually don’t like to write myself into a story. In this case, however, I can’t extricate myself from it. I am as much a part of this tale as most everyone else in this valley, or the others west and south that attend to it. We call it a place to ski, ride, or otherwise explore for a season or two. But do we call it home? Can we?

Teton County, Wyoming, is a riddle wrapped in charisma. It’s ridiculous to try to figure it out. Economists can’t. Realtors can’t. It’s a valley whose glass is always half-full or half-empty.

When the economy is going balls-out, jobs are plentiful, cash flows like spring runoff, and a “For Rent” sign is scarcer than common sense at a Congressional committee meeting. Throw in a recession, depression, or the average November and it’s back to the 1880s – valley residents passing around the same worn out $20 bill for a while.

You can’t have it both ways in this town and that yin-yang constantly tugs at the fabric of this community. Never mind traditional economic indicators like sales tax revenue or number of building permits pulled; I can tell in one scan of the rentals whether Jackson Hole is scraping by or scraping the ceiling.

Landlords are quickest to react. When times are tough, they waive the damage deposit or last month’s rent. They might kick in for utilities. They suddenly become dog-lovers. Over the hill and in Star Valley, I’ve seen “first month’s rent free” offers. Yes, when nobody is building and tourists aren’t buying T-shirts, it’s possible to live like a king even with a dog, cat, horse and a Megadeth stereo system.

But when the valley gets a little jingle in her pocket, the tagline “poverty with a view” pops to mind. They use the phrase in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Bend, Oregon, but Jackson Hole takes the cake. Millionaires ARE literally squeezed out by billionaires in this valley. And the trickle-down theory of economics in Teton County means when it shines, it pours.

High times in Jackson shrivel the rental classifieds. First-time homebuyers are priced out of the real estate market or are coaxed into getting in over their heads. They end up renting the three- and four-bedroom homes that usually house 90-day wonders. Seasonal workers, in turn, wind up flopping in forest campsites. And, as usual, the middle-class suffers worst of all – too poor to buy in and too proud to couch surf.

Add a burgeoning VRBO market – both legal and not-so-much – and you’ve got even more units removed from the rental sector.

 82113feature3For Rent

Teton County Housing Authority executive director Christine Walker knows all about the hardship and struggle of getting a foot in the door in Teton County, even if that door is a tent flap.

“I moved here in 1989 and I camped my first summer here,” Walker says. “I’ve lived in a garage. I had to move around a lot. I didn’t mind it then but I couldn’t do that now. The hardest part was sometimes not knowing where you were going to spend the night.”

Walker is well aware of how tight the housing market is right now and, more importantly, how her agency has failed at times to alleviate the pressure.

“We have a fluctuating market and we tend to make the most mistakes when we try to react to it,” Walker says. “We are not looking to chase the economy. There will be times when housing will be tighter and times when it will be looser. Housing the workforce in Teton County is never something you solve.”

Walker says the Housing Authority might have misread the demand for higher-end ownership inventory like Category 3 and 4 “Attainables” that list for more than a half-million bucks. Some people’s hides get chapped when they know a subsidized home sits empty waiting on a mechanical engineer or commercial loan officer who can get under the $283,494 net asset max and $117,800 annual income restriction. One such available home in Wilson has three baths. Those rooms alone could house six Joe Rice employees.

And people who plunk down $549,000 for a home don’t want to be told what they are allowed to sell it for. This is free market territory and Walker knows this now.

“The main thing we’ve been looking at is having the free market function as naturally as we can without competing in it,” Walker says. “We don’t want to be creeping into the higher income ranges. We don’t want to get into that position with product like the Attainable 4 category.”

Walker is quick to point out that her agency is responsible for some 900 price-restricted rental units in the community and the Authority’s latest project, a 68-unit apartment complex called the Grove, is set to break ground next summer.

Walker says, “We look at the entire spectrum of housing. We arrange different income sectors with varying ownership and rental product. Where we see gaps, we identify need. That’s where we are when we are looking at the Grove. We see rental opportunities at the very low end lacking in the community. And also ownership opportunities in the Category 1 and 2 Affordable level.”

82113feature2 Housing Wanted

I was a bit shielded from the housing crunch when I first arrived to the valley in 1997. I hired on with Lost Creek Ranch and housing came with. After three years there, my first home in town was a suite at the Painted Buffalo Inn. I rented by the month. It was the year 2000 and there wasn’t a house, cabin, or apartment to be had anywhere for any price.

I learned my first lesson in Jackson Holenomics: Of salary, room, and board – the greatest of these is room. I took a part-time job in layout with the Jackson Hole Guide purely to get a first shot at the classifieds. If you waited until it printed on Wednesday, it was already too late.

So sue me. I know more than one first-responder who became a volunteer fireman so they could get bumped to the front of the line by various government-assisted housing programs.

Still, I couldn’t find anything. I had a cowdog, a trailer, and my last place of residence was a bunkhouse. I was a lessee leper to landlords. I finally placed my own wanted ad in the paper. It was blunt, honest, and slightly desperate. And unlike the dozens of other housing wanted ads, I was offering to actually pay rent, not just caretake.

I landed a place at the end of Wenzel Lane. I lived above an indoor riding arena in an efficiency apartment for $1,000 a month. My landlords were leasing the massive main building on an adjacent parcel. There was room on the property for keeping a horse. I got two. The place sold a month later.

“The Greenbergs of New York will be assuming ownership,” I overheard the realtor explain to the renters I was renting from. “They were looking for something in the 5,000-square-foot range to accent their asset portfolio and this fills the bill wonderfully. The barn will have to go, of course. We’ll knock that down to open the view.”

I had two weeks to vacate. On the night I left, it was Thanksgiving, and it snowed pretty hard. I got a call from someone representing the new owners asking if I would please plow the driveway on my way out so they could get in. I told them to go to hell. I’ve always felt bad about that.

Then it was on to an apartment above the radio station where I worked. It was in an old building that once stood where Lift restaurant is now. It had no kitchen or sink. There was one electrical outlet. The place was so rickety. I remember the day I had to move out because it was being torn down for 43 North. The demolition crew arrived with this sorry-looking little bulldozer that looked like it could have lost a tug-of-war contest with a MINI Cooper.

“That’s all you brought?” I asked the contractor. “Shouldn’t you have a wrecking ball or something bigger?”

The bulldozer grunted and lurched forward, bumping the side of the two-story building gently. It fell over in a heap.

For the next six years I lived at the Teton Gables Motel – a place so ghetto I once heard a police officer refuse to let his wife stay the night when Teton Pass was snowed shut. He had been called there too many times.

I wasn’t about to move out, though. The room was free, including all the scratchy toilet paper I could use. And I knew what awaited me on the free market. The day I got the news that I was being laid off from the job attached to the motel room, I was devastated. Not about being out of work. Like the Westernism says: “I was looking for a job when I found this one.” No, I cried in my beer over having to scour the rentals again looking for something within a 45-minute drive that didn’t have “NP” in it.

I spent last summer living in my office, sleeping on a cot. It sucked but I was never late for work. Now I live in Red Top Meadows. It’s a haul, but I didn’t have to shoot my dog or sell my trailer. I even got a cat. But the real estate market is back on its feet again and a prospective buyer was out the other day looking the place over. I called a friend about her place in town. She said it’s on the market, too.

I’ve tried for an affordable house with the Housing Authority but never got picked. I was once fourth out of more than 200 for one of the houses on Old Schoolhouse Lane in Wilson. The thought crossed my mind to eliminate the first three applicants by any means necessary.

The Housing Authority on Monday announced via email what it called a “unique housing opportunity.” Apparently, the Authority was being asked by Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust to help them get rid of a $408,000 home in the Glory View subdivision. It’s Gold LEED certified.

I once lived in a place that had to be worthy of LEED certification of some kind. It was so energy-efficient it didn’t use any electricity or gas. It didn’t have either.

 FLD, NS/NP, basement apartment in Alpine – $2,400

When the going gets tough, the tough get going … to Curtis Canyon, Munger Mountain and Mosquito Creek. Want to know when it’s time to renew your real estate license? Whenever it’s tent city up Curtis. Authorities have had numerous issues at tenement tent row in Curtis Canyon and Munger Mountain as 90-day wonders have been forced into the sagebrush by a tightening housing market.

How tight is it? A quick scan of the JacksonHoleRadio.com’s free classified Web site shows “housing needed” listings from several posters claiming to be lifelong residents of Jackson. Some are well-established business owners. One ran for mayor last election. All of them put out on their asses with one dreaded phone call: “I’m listing the place.”

It’s always been this way in this valley. “It’s usually easier to find a job than a place to live,” Walker says.

The Housing Authority once went off the model that home ownership fulfills the American Dream. A white picket fence with a swing set in the backyard meant stability and investment in community. Attitudes changed after the crash. Study after study shows more Americans are open to paying rent rather than carrying a mortgage.

“We want to serve both the homeowner and the renter,” Walker says. “We want to create a diverse, well-rounded community that supports our local businesses. There is definitely that trend nationwide, and especially in this community there is a lot of talk about rentals. I will be curious to see how the market changes over this fall when the seasonals are up.”

A few October listings are beginning to trickle in, indicating river runners, bellmen, and lawn mowers were tying up some housing. What Walker doesn’t want to do is chase the economy. Affordable/employee housing mitigation rates (the exaction charged to builders for new development) were hiked from 15 to 25 percent in 2008 while the local housing market was going bonkers  – just in time to watch it crash.

It’s funny. Webster’s alt-definition of exaction is extortion and that’s exactly what most developers view it as. Town and County officials see it as a speed bump to new business enterprise that will result in job creation, which is good. However, this also brings dozens of 20-somethings with their Toyota Tundras and black labs to the valley, which could be bad.

There already are rumblings about lowering the mitigation rate in order to spur growth again.

“The right rate depends on how we are utilizing other tools. We are hearing it is difficult to be switching that rate and reacting to changes. When we are reacting, we are behind. Keeping a steady mitigation rate is helpful for everyone. I don’t really have a number in mind. I think the [current] rate is working,” Walker says. “We are trying to build the right product and not being reactionary. We are being thoughtful and long-term, methodically putting units on the ground.”

Walker noted several businesses are currently building housing for their employees, including JHMR, Whole Grocer, and the new Walgreens.

“The idea of affordable housing started with employers in the valley needing to find somewhere for their employees to live,” Walker says. “Then came the nonprofits and then government agencies like the Housing Authority. There has never been so many options and programs available for housing assistance. And we are getting better and better at this.”


About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.

45 Comments

  1. Danny Haworth

    August 20, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Very thoughtful assessment of the situation. Thanks, Jake!

  2. Max Mogren

    August 21, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Great article, but incomplete depth. Let’s let George Carlin fill in the blanks on why the average Jacksonite can’t find or afford a decent place to live. It’s…

    …”Because the owners, the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions.

    Forget the politicians. They are irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice! You have OWNERS! They OWN YOU. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought, and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls.

    They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying, to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want:

    They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. Thats against their interests.

    Thats right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that!

    You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it, and now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street, and you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later cause they own this fucking place! It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it! You, and I, are not in the big club.

    By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table has tilted folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care! Good honest hard-working people; white collar, blue collar it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard-working people continue, these are people of modest means, continue to elect these rich cock suckers who don’t give a fuck about you….they don’t give a fuck about you… they don’t give a FUCK about you.

    They don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Thats what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick thats being jammed up their assholes everyday, because the owners of this country know the truth.

    It’s called the American Dream,because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

    • sailing

      August 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      Max Morgren at his finest as always!! Mad props, bro!!

    • Sam

      August 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

      THIS. This is why we eat GMO’s, and they’re banned in other countries. This is why our student loans aren’t all fixed at a low rate, but tied to the market. This is why slavery was around for so long, and it’s why most big corporations (Walmart, McDonalds et al) get away with paying people so little they can’t even live off their wages. It’s why McDonald’s pays minimum wage through debit cards that charge the people fees just to get their meager fucking paychecks. It’s why so many, many things are so fucked up.

      And it’s why I hear high end Jackson realtors saying things like “it’s not our problem if the poor people and workers can’t afford to live here – that’s what Alpine and Victor are for”. Literally, a quote from one of those assholes. They hate that we even HAVE affordable housing programs. Because all those scummy working class people (mostly with college and graduate level degrees mind you) are a blight on the megadollar wanna-be mini-ranches that surround them.

      If it weren’t for the great outdoor opportunities we have here, most of us would have said ‘fuck this place’ a looong time ago. Because greed is not good.

  3. jake

    August 21, 2013 at 6:29 am

    @MadMax – dang, bra, you wanna job here?

  4. Jean R.

    August 21, 2013 at 7:28 am

    I’ve lived in Jackson for over thirty years, now I need a place to live this September. I’m on my way back from New England and chanced on this article just in time to reawaken the old housing nightmare .
    The housing search was always challenging. Our town has worked on the problem for thirty years, maybe in another thirty another generation can come up with a solution that works for everyone, if we squarely face a few facts. Letting our economy run free and naturally will have us beyond the Aspinization we fear.If we want a diverse community, affordable housing will have to mean more than overcrowded rooms full of immigrant labor. We’ll need more regulated housing and more publicly controlled land use if we don’t want to morph into a plantation town where the help speak only when spoken to. Of course, this would not be a bad thing if you happen to be a realtor or multi hillside mansion owner, but my friends and I and co-workers aren’t. However, my friends and I have a few things in common with our land lords. We all love this valley and town. We want to keep it beautiful, breath the clean air, hike in the Tetons, and enjoy a safe picturesque little town while making a decent living. I’m willing to share with any billionaire, hope they will share with us.

  5. JFeary

    August 21, 2013 at 9:44 am

    (Sighs and shakes head. Relates too well. Sees his time in Jackson coming to an end. Feels sad.)

  6. RDC

    August 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    We’ve allowed businesses for years to pay a penalty fee so they don’t have to build employee housing. Also, there seems to be a large population of college kids that come here for the summer and rent homes but do not work because mom and dad are financing their Wyoming adventure. These combined have created a housing crunch. We need to stop allowing a penalty fee and make new businesses make good on their commitment to our community.

  7. Shake Penny

    August 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Jake:

    Please accept some responsibility for putting yourself in the situation you find yourself in. You choose to live here. None has to. You know the game. You accept the crappy work and housing. No one is responsible for building housing for you or renting to you. Get a better education and build a better life. Or take a 4th job and rent a better place.

    • Walterreuther

      August 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Wow, what a bitch rant.

      • Shake Penny

        August 21, 2013 at 8:16 pm

        Thanks Walterreuther.

        Insightful comments from another intelligent poster are always appreciated.

        For the record, a ‘rant’ is what MadMax dished out. As for bitches, I’ll take the Title. Little boys like you need a bitch to keep you straight.

        • 50cent

          August 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm

          Jackson doesn’t need bitches or little boys. They should all move back to Vermont

        • Sam

          August 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

          I’m pretty sure ‘bitch’ is the polite term for you; The proper four letter version preferred by the Brits and Ozzies would be closer to the truth, if still somewhat polite.

    • jake

      August 21, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      I wasn’t complaining. I was just writing. I was going for funny but it might have come out as more pathetic.

      • Walterreuther

        August 22, 2013 at 2:20 am

        Your story is not pathetic, it is all to real. The problem is far to many people don’t realize the realities of the working class in Jackson are actually that difficult.

    • Sam

      August 23, 2013 at 10:51 am

      The words of a weak and inexperienced person… This rings of someone with an MRS degree who either married well or inherited well. People who have actually done what you suggest know the hardship, trials and tribulations of a hard-earned life, and would never have the audacity to prattle on like you just did. I feel sorry for you, really.

  8. Obama fixed America

    August 21, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    The trend in America is toward a servant class that allows the Middle Class to live more like the Upper Class. The Upper Class can then profit off of the Middle Class living off of the backs of the Lower Class. That’s Apple’s iPhone model to a T.

    This is how it has always worked. Slaves, Chinese railroad workers, Irish laborers, Mexicans. Outsourcing labor to China and India. America gets rich by exploiting labor. Get over it.

    Max is a disposable cog that’s here to make me rich. And he’s probably wearing clothes made by the disposable garment workers in Bangladesh who’s compensation makes him look filthy rich by comparison.

  9. Still better than NYC

    August 22, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Be they visiting from across the border or flying in with a student visa, foreign employees manage to finagle housing. The American kid from Portland will have a harder time finding a place and getting together the money to move in.

    Of course, many housing unit are snapped up by immigration agencies just for their immigrant clients. And many businesses set aside units just for visa workers. Employers wonder why they can’t find American labor.

    Concerning the 900 price-restricted units, I’m always surprised to find who gets into these units. A boyfriend and girlfriend living in a price-restricted 2 bedroom unit who share a room and have enough income to hit the private marketplace at Blair or wherever. Meanwhile, a family of three with less income goes looking for a 2 bedroom.

    I assume many of the those price-restricted units go toward the senior/disabled set. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen these places advertised in the paper so it’s not like they see a lot of turnover.

    The idea behind Habitat for Humanity and the Housing Authority, etc, is nice but they have been the most misguided organizations in this valley. This valley needs affordable rentals not permanent housing for a select few lottery winners. The people who get into the ‘obtainable housing’ are often as undeserving as those in price-restricted apartments.

  10. JIJ

    August 22, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Walter Reuther, the terse author here, and the UAW labor leader of years gone by are both right and have both been called little boys to be pushed aside with different outcomes. Laborers were always the little guys, we can easily be pushed aside and swept under rugs. We always have been pipsqueaks next to our bosses and the monied folk. That’s the way it was and that’s the way it is. That’s why Mr. Reuther (the elder) helped organize labor. A matter of strength. A phalanx was always more formidable than a mob of individuals. Your boss can fire you anytime he can find a cheaper worker but would have to put a lot more thought into it if kicking you meant kicking the whole staff and their friends making the deliveries and buying the produce.

    You probably sweat as much at work as the average billionaire stock manipulator. His sweat happens to carry more weight than yours. He speaks and senators listen. You say something and risk getting canned. Without a really rich dad, a Harvard degree, and a great white collar job all you have is cheap sweat ,sore muscles and your friends. “Union” is a dirty word in Jackson and a lot of places that romanticize “individualism”.

    Stand up for yourselves like individuals if you want and get romantically stomped on. Stand up together with your friends, arm in arm, as a union and be listened to.

  11. sjr

    August 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    There is only one hope: to make an affordable housing skyscraper in Teton Village. Then make a north bridge over the snake to the airport. House all JHMR, NPS, Airport employees and more… START buses might actually be rideable and traffic might not be so stupid.

  12. I like car camping

    August 22, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Complain all you want.

    Let it out.

    Losers rent. Winners own.

    Accept your fate.

    Man camps for all: http://www.palomarmodularbuildings.com/modular-building-uses/workforce-housing.shtml

  13. Sam

    August 23, 2013 at 11:12 am

    The problem is the town leadership. The realtors, small property owners, and leaders (there’s a lot of crossover) desperately want real estate to remain scarce. They love to waive the ‘environment’ flag. But this is just a ruse to keep supply tight, and their pensions funded by the dream of one day selling their extra slivers of land for millions.

    In order to accomplish this they use long term planning to prohibit the development of new projects that would be similar in scope to Melody Ranch and Rafter J. There’s plenty of land around here, but we’re not allowed to use it, because it would drive down the local leaders retirement plans. They want HOUSES in Hawaii, not condos. Fuck condos. So the supply is kept artificially tight.

    I think we SHOULD build more and develop more of the land around town. Wyoming has more freaking cows than people, and these ‘landed class’ leaders and long-time local property owners want you to believe that building is somehow going to ‘ruin all this habitat’. And the Hole will lose its SOUL!!! What a CROCK OF SHIT. There is SO MUCH protected terrain in GTNP and Yellowstone, in addition to the Forest Service and BLM land… and these ‘local leaders’ want everyone to believe that we can’t build any more developments for ‘working class’ people because ‘the density is too high’ and it might displace a fucking moose or something. The moose will figure it out. They made it through rafter J and Melody, and they’re still doing fine in east Jackson.

    It’s absolutely not the environment they’re protecting; It’s their retirement environment. They want Hawaii, not Florida, and they want houses, not condos to plop their fat asses in. And they’re willing to foresake anyone who ‘can’t afford it’ to get it.

    • p

      August 28, 2013 at 12:23 am

      You might want to consider commenting on the latest proposed updates to the Land Development Regulations at http://www.tetonwyo.org/compp/topics/rural-concepts-testing-workshops/252349/ and then go to http://rural.jacksontetonplan.com to make comments. These comments will (hopefully) be taken into account when the elected officials determine how to amend our zoning and development regulations.

  14. Chris

    August 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    First off, don’t get a goddamn dog 30 seconds after you move here. I’m not shedding a single tear for anyone who does, and then has trouble finding housing for them and their fur-child. Secondly, no one owes you an affordable place to live in one of the most desirable places in the world, simply so you can attempt to make a living and a life out of recreating. The real world requires hard work and sacrifice, and if your focus is on playing as much as possible, well then, tough shit for you. Put your 2-3 years of extended college life in, then beat it. Jackson was here long before you got here, and will be long after you’re gone. No one can stay in Never-Never Land forever.

  15. Less is More

    August 25, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Perfectly happy to see fewer workers and fewer apartments available. That means higher wages for workers, usually.

    The implications of providing affordable housing for the workforce can have wide ranging negative effects by distorting the free marketplace.

    With less housing, there’s fewer employees. With fewer employees, there’s fewer employers competing with other employers because other employers don’t enter the marketplace or they go out of business. More profit can be made. Better wages can be dished out to the valuable employees.

    When you have 10 different companies providing rafting services to visitors, there is a lot of competition for sales, duplication of efforts, and other inefficiencies. Fewer workers means some of those businesses go out of business. The others pick up the slack with fewer employees but still provide the services visitors request resulting in greater profits.

    Additionally, when our town leaders force developers to build employee housing, they drive down wages. Developers pass their costs onto business owners in the form of higher rents. Business owners go looking for cheaper employees like immigrant labor who are ni less deserving of better compensation.

    Man camps at the fairgrounds may be our future, but it’s not the direction Jackson should be headed. Let the marketplace find its own natural balance between housing & workers and businesses & services.

    • Sam

      August 26, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Your limited understanding of ‘free market’ leads to the direct implication that inflation is good. Higher wages, higher rents, and fewer workers mean food and other staples become more expensive as well, and the end result is no net gain by anyone.

      This town is an economic anomaly, not dissimilar to NYC, except that the land scarcity here is artificially imposed by the town and county leaders, under the auspice of ‘environmental protection’. The truth is there are plenty of lots in town and plenty of ranches surrounding Jackson that could be developed to provide more housing at lower cost, but the land hoarders around here are terrified of their retirement plans (their land) going anywhere but up.

      Too much of the land in Jackson is controlled by a greedy few.

      • Another Dummy

        August 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

        Land prices drive inflation in Jackson – not the lack of subsidized housing. Higher wages for the poor contribute very little to inflation because the wages are so small compared to the wages for everyone else. Take away the servants who cater to the rich and they will be less to speculate in Jackson. Less speculation means lower land prices.

        Costco pays above average wages to its employees but it has below average costs for consumers and has above average profits. Not everything is as simple in your World as you think.

        The government should stop fiddling with the “free market” by choosing winners and losers in the housing market.

        • Another Dummy

          August 26, 2013 at 5:31 pm

          Correction

          “Take away the servants who cater to the rich and they will be less LIKELY to speculate in Jackson”

      • Another Dummy

        August 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/30/costco-profits_n_3359033.html

        “Costco’s Profit Soars To $459 Million As Low-Wage Competitors Struggle”

        • Another Dummy

          August 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm

          A typical Costco worker made $45,000 in 2011, according to Fortune. That’s compared to Sam’s Club workers’ average salary of $17,486 per year.

          Amazing how their prices don’t double, isn’t it?

      • Another Dummy

        August 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm

        The costs of goods and services in a resort town are mostly paid for by visitors. A hotel room isn’t rented by locals. Most of our low paid employees are in the hospitality industry.

      • Paul

        August 27, 2013 at 3:44 pm

        The Fed’s role in keeping interests rates low played a big part in setting the stage for the financial meltdown & the housing crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, subprime mortgages, and all those govt. incentives & policies to help low-income home buyers (or any home buyers) came back to bite us.

        Government intervention in the free marketplace is tricky business and it clearly failed during the last decade.

        • p

          August 28, 2013 at 12:26 am

          You might want to consider commenting on the latest proposed updates to the Land Development Regulations at http://www.tetonwyo.org/compp/topics/rural-concepts-testing-workshops/252349/ and then go to http://rural.jacksontetonplan.com to make comments. These comments will (hopefully) be taken into account when the elected officials determine how to amend our zoning and development regulations.

  16. Just say NO to subsidized housing.

    August 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Interesting story about why college cost are rising so fast: Subsidies from the government. Distort the marketplace and strange things happen.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324619504579029282438522674.html?mod=hp_opinion

    “This growth in (college) subsidies, Mr. Vedder argues, has fueled rising prices: “It gives every incentive and every opportunity for colleges to raise their fees.”

    The same process is true on the other end. Provide subsidized housing and employers will pay less. Those without subsidized housing get shafted, of course. Those with it are on the dole. Neither case is good for a healthy and free economy.

    And of course, there’s less incentive to work harder or develop a better skill set when you live the subsidized easy life.

    • SB

      August 26, 2013 at 11:53 am

      You’re right. Only the rich, who can pay cash their education, should have the opportunity to attend college.

      That would make America stronger. We need more uneducated people, because they’re cheaper to employ.

      And you know what else? All the regulations over land use should be dropped. If you own the land, you should be able to develop it as you see fit. Jackson needs more Rafter J’s and Melody Ranches. Let’s use the free market to make living here more affordable, by developing all the great land around Jackson. All this environmental regulation is a bunch of garbage. There’s plenty of land for moose and elk. Just because they’re displaced by a mile or so here or there isn’t going to put them on the endangered list.

      But you know who likes all that environmental regulation? The people who own Jackson. The wealthy. The people who otherwise loathe regulation, love it here, because it helps keep prices artificially high. A return to the free market would solve that, don’t you agree?

      • Another Dummy

        August 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm

        “Only the rich, who can pay cash their education, should have the opportunity to attend college.”

        Did you read the Wall Street Journal story?

        More to the point, did you understand it?

        Read it that way if you like.

        I understand why you would like everyone to pay for your lifestyle. You love handouts. Many do.

        Some people work hard and save enough money to attend college. Most people who buy a car don’t get a subsidy from Uncle Sam to do so. Many folks who think like you really just want to save money on rent so that they can buy more toys and have more leisure time.

        Currently, only the rich can afford college in large part because of the system put in place by the government.

        You fail to understand how money moves in the educational system. The govt guarantees the student’s loan. The college doesn’t have to worry about getting its money. If the college was on the hook for the student’s loan it would be more invested in the student’s success.

        Additionally, private banks would be unlikely to lend money to poor students who don’t actually have the ability to succeed and or choose fields of study that provide lousy compensation. The government is unlikely to ever set that standard.

        WSJ: “Today, only about 7% of recent college grads come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce. All the government subsidies intended to make college more accessible haven’t done much for this population, says Mr. Vedder. They also haven’t much improved student outcomes or graduation rates, which are around 55% at most universities (over six years).”

        READ IT AND GET A GRIP ON REALITY. Your position just supports a failing educational system.

        • Stupid is as stupid does

          August 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm

          Did you realize you were responding to an article about the cost of housing in Jackson? And you’ve tried to quantum-leap an incomplete article about college tuition into some kind of daft housing parallel?

          I’m not… who you think. I’ve had some good seven figure years myself, attended college without loans, and a good friend of mine owns several for-profit colleges, and I’ve consulted in the industry. It’s not the students who are to blame, it’s the greed at the top. That greedy leadership employs teams of salespeople to recruit and arrange federal funding for students. Those statistics you cite? what about the comparative rise in for-profit ‘education businesses’? Lies, damn lies, and statistics, my friend. And ‘owners’ have no monopoly on greed. It’s there at the state-run schools and non-profits as well. Making the money easily available didn’t hurt, but do you know who paid the lobbyists to loosen the purse strings on that money? Greedy university directors and edu-business owners. That’s who. It’s no surprise that an average WSJ reader like yourself doesn’t know the full story, but I do, and I’m here to tell you the greed comes from the top, and it’s the people who can least afford to pay the bills who suffer the most.

          I assure you I own you on this talking point, and I’ve got the direct experience to back it up, with education lobbyists, school owners, and plenty of time observing the Jackson economy. I know exactly how the machine works, and who lures who, who drives the Bentleys and who can’t pay cash for a beater. Live it up in your self-centered Republican utopia if you like, but the truth is a lot larger than you know. Just because you’re wealthy, doesn’t mean you have to be i̶g̶n̶o̶r̶a̶n̶t̶ a Republican.

          And students saddled with ‘promising degrees’ and lifelong loan debt aren’t much different than all the non-business owning employees in Jackson. Come here! Get a job here! Enjoy the outdoors! But the hell with you if you can’t afford to live here, you fv©king plebes!

          Very generous, indeed.

          • Paul

            August 27, 2013 at 4:03 pm

            The World doesn’t own anybody a living or a good life. Make it yourself.

            ” I’ve had some good seven figure years ”

            Whatever.

            The ungrateful are certainly the undeserving. Folks that bitch in Jackson are certainly both.

            If you can’t afford to live here (illegal immigrants seem to do just fine), leave. None is forcing anyone to stay nor does anyone have some God-given right to live here if they can’t afford it.

            You want a handout. That’s GREEDY.

            I’m glad you’re suffering, though. It builds character.

          • Paul

            August 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm

            “..you’ve tried to quantum-leap an incomplete article about college tuition into some kind of daft housing parallel? ”

            The “quantum-leap” is about the govt trying to help low income people and failing. Be it housing or education. Govt intervention in the free market screws up the natural balance in an economy.

            I don’t expect you to be too smart so lets just cut to the chase: Government intervention in any marketplace – housing, education, agriculture, energy, etc, has a poor track record of helping the poor.

  17. Just say NO to subsidized housing.

    August 25, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    The true cost of goods and services are never distributed properly to visitors and locals when we subsidize members of a community.

    Jackson, the Town, and Teton County are some of the worst offenders. They take tax dollars from other parts of the country to pay for their lavish lifestyle – energy efficiency, palatial bathrooms, bus barns, bike paths, trails, subsidized housing, etc.

    Everyone wants the free ride, literally.

    • Ed

      August 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      Our core problem is artificial land scarcity. The leaders have ‘regulated’ it this way to artificially inflate their own property values. Corruption in politics? Nooooo. Never.

      The present solution, with existing artificial land scarcity, is to raise taxes to the extreme on properties that are NOT primary residences. They need to disincentivize the hoarding of property in Jackson. Sorry realtors, builders and financial speculators, but if you aren’t living here full time you should have to get a hotel or get the f%^k out. If all the ‘two week a year’ mega properties, ski bum rentals, and other non-owner-occupied properties became more expensive to maintain (due to high non-owner-occ prop taxes), we’d have more property available at lower prices to people who actually LIVE in them.

      There should be hurdles to owning property here, not hurdles to actually LIVING here.

      This would strengthen the community, reduce the cost of living, and expel a lot of GREED and hardship. You know why it will never happen? Greedy, land-owning, land-speculating leadership at the town and county level. They don’t care about the quality of life for locals, they care about their own net worth and the profitability of their businesses. Unfortunately, anyone who owns a a house is always inherently incentivized to go along with their schemes, so long as enough constituents are being ‘paid’ through inflated real estate values.

      There is a greater good to be achieved, but this greedy little town will never pursue it.

  18. Just leave if it's so bad.

    August 26, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Can’t stand the housing situation? LEAVE.

    Don’t like the high prices? LEAVE.

    Don’t like the low wages? LEAVE.

    Want a handout? LEAVE.

    I hear Casper is just your type of town. MOVE THERE.

    Everybody thinks they are entitled to the World on a string. YOU”RE NOT!

    You all are selfish idiots.

    Try complaining about your poor pitiful life and how horrible things are to a person in Haiti.

    GET OVER IT. THIS IS JACKSON.

    You’re lucky to live here in a pup tent and have 3 squares a day. This town gives you some incredible entertainment, library facilities, community services, medical care, skiing, climbing, biking, hiking, kayaking, rafting, swimming, paragliding, yoga, grocery stores, art galleries, pathways, scenery, wildlife, beer, and friends in one of the most crime free, clean, smart, and wealthy communities on the planet.

    Top it off with no state income taxes and low sales taxes.

    • Harry P

      August 27, 2013 at 6:46 am

      Hunting, fishing, and The Virg! Can’t forget that.

    • WHO should leave?

      August 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Why not just develop the land around town and impose high taxes on non-primary residences. If you want to live here, you get ‘locals’ deals on taxes, just like everything else. If you’re just hoarding property for passive income, or staying here a couple weeks a year, tough shit. LEAVE.

      This would bring down property values, strengthen our ACTUAL community (something so many pretend to care about) and push out the people who seek to profit by making it more expensive for others to live here.

      I don’t see any problem with it, and there’s no better solution. Proper incentives would lead to less population turnover, less angst, and a stronger, more stable community. A few people will have to go elsewhere to profit on real estate, but those are the first people I’d like to excommunicate anyway.

    • p

      August 28, 2013 at 12:27 am

      You might want to consider commenting on the latest proposed updates to the Land Development Regulations at http://www.tetonwyo.org/compp/topics/rural-concepts-testing-workshops/252349/ and then go to http://rural.jacksontetonplan.com to make comments. These comments will (hopefully) be taken into account when the elected officials determine how to amend our zoning and development regulations.

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