THE BUZZ 2: Redmond and Hall Moves Forward

By on January 10, 2017

Town and county officials vote to pour $1.95M into the affordable housing project in East Jackson.

One step closer to housing...

One step closer to housing…?

JACKSON HOLE, WY – A treacherous storm on Monday that prompted officials to shut down Teton Pass highlights this area’s deepening housing crisis—myriad critical service providers who live in other communities couldn’t make it to work. This fact was not lost on some town and county officials that same day, when they unanimously voted to appropriate $1.95 million in town and county funds for the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust’s Redmond and Hall affordable housing project.

Twenty-eight affordable rental units are slated for construction there for a project that has been in the works since 2013. Up until now, town and county officials had not been able to agree on whether or not to fund the effort. The project—which is estimated to cost $12M—will be subjected to another vote February 6, after town and county staff crafts an agreement with the trust. If that vote passes, construction could begin as early as the spring, according to a town and county staff report.

A drawn out process of bidding and rebidding has spiked the cost of the project. The trust has raised $4M to date and will likely have to borrow another $4M from a private entity.

The money that town and county electeds voted to appropriate for Redmond and Hall in this first vote comes from the sale of Cheney Lane. Using specific purpose excise tax funds (SPET) that voters decided in 2007 should go to the creation of affordable housing, the Housing Authority purchased the land that year. Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Department sold the parcel—where the Housing Authority had managed three affordable rental homes—last fall to Sage Flats LLC.

A lengthy conversation ensued during Monday’s meeting about whether to approve the funding now or earmark the requested amount for a SPET item that voters would decide on in May. But waiting could be problematic. If pushed to a SPET ballot, the funding would be up for yet another vote and it would cause construction delays and likely increase the price of the project, explained Anne Cresswell, executive director of the Housing Trust.

Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon and Councilman Jim Stanford were vociferous about appropriating money for the project now instead of earmarking the funds for a SPET item in May.

“Voters have been waiting a long time for affordable housing to go in the ground,” Stanford said. “The 300-plus people on the Housing Trust list are still waiting for housing to be built. Today we are going to direct and authorize the use of funds that voters already approved for affordable housing.”

Muldoon also emphasized that voters made their decision long ago. “The funds we are considering appropriating today were raised through SPET 10 years ago with a promise that they’d be used to build affordable housing for the community,” he said. “The voters who paid that tax are still waiting for housing to be built with that money.”

Other electeds proceeded with caution. Councilor Hailey Morton Levinson said she would support funding the project now, but she expressed concern that appropriating the requested funds would leave the town council and the housing department without much money for other projects. “We as electeds are in a difficult position to see all of our other needs. Emptying funds all on one project is dangerous,” she said.

During public comment, Jackson resident Stephen Koch said he supports approving the funding now. “It’s dire out there,” he said. “The quicker we can get the money to build these units, the better. I don’t think we should wait to rebid. I would encourage you all to get this going as soon as possible.”

Running on a platform that was hyper-focused on housing, Muldoon is hopeful that electeds will support pouring the funds into the project again during the February vote, when the agreement between the trust and town and county is presented.

This project is ready to go and it is going to help us house our local workforce right here in town,” Muldoon said. “The importance of [the unanimous vote] was even more apparent on a day when Wyoming weather prevented critical town and county employees who live in Victor and Alpine from coming to work.” — Meg Daly and Robyn Vincent

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