State taskforce takes aim at local housing program

Legislators consider restricting local control and the county’s ability to tackle affordability issues.
Taylor Phillips (left) owns JH EcoTours and provides public comment before members of the state Regulatory Reduction Taskforce at the County Commissioner Chambers. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Housing

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misinterpreted Jennifer Ford’s public comment. A correction has been issued.

State legislators convened in Jackson in late May to learn about Teton County’s housing crisis firsthand. In their sight was a town and county program that supports affordable and workforce housing. The task force—part of a larger initiative aimed to reduce regulation in Wyoming—is considering intervening in town and county policy that supports affordable and workforce housing.

The state task force, comprised of legislators and state staff, went on a private tour of housing developments and held two meetings over two days. The bulk of the discussion was on lengthy timelines for development in the town and county, and housing mitigation costs paid by businesses and developers.

Senator Mike Gierau of Jackson addressed the task force. 

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“It’s an incredible community. It’s a diverse community. And as you’ve learned over the last 48 hours, it is not without its challenges,” said Gierau.

The state task force is still considering restricting local control and the county’s ability to tackle affordability issues.

The bulk of the discussion at one of last week’s meetings was the lengthy timelines for development in the town and county — and housing mitigation costs which in 2018 shifted focus from residential to commercial construction, with the idea that they’re generating new employees, so they should help house them. 

Between 2018 and 2022, the mitigation program funded more than a quarter of workforce and affordable housing built in Teton County.

Many community members, like Charlotte Reynolds, support the mitigation costs and extended timelines. Reynolds works for the Teton County School District. She said increased development means an increased demand on their already stretched schools. She says the school district needs housing solutions.

“Otherwise, we are not able to deliver the high-quality education that our kids deserve and our families expect and our state requires,” said Reynolds.

But others don’t support extended timelines nor mitigation. 24-year resident of Teton County Jennifer Ford urged state lawmakers to intervene in local control if town and county timelines remain lengthy, stalling development.

“It costs more. It takes longer. And that’s not an accident,” said Ford.

Additionally, local business owner Taylor Phillips said that however necessary to fight the housing crisis, mitigation costs are too much — stifling small business owners. 

“Oh my gosh, you know, a quarter million dollars like that is squashing the small business entrepreneurial spirit, which I know is the lifeblood of this community and communities across the state,” said Phillips.

In the past, the task force has taken aim at Teton County and Jackson’s ability to regulate housing development in the area — and it still seems to be considering intervening. County Commission chair Luther Propst says the county needs help from the state through tools and resources — but not mandates.

“The story of the West is to the federal government is send money and leave us alone. And that’s kind of, you know, to be real honest. That’s what we hope for here,” said Propst. 

Sen. Mike Gierau of Jackson, co-chair of the task force, said he expects legislation to be introduced next legislative session — although he’s not quite sure what it will look like.

 

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