April Norton has a great weight on her shoulders. As Teton County and Jackson’s lead housing official, Norton is tasked with finding affordable housing solutions in the country’s wealthiest county.
On a recent trip to Washington D.C. with other county officials, Norton welcomed the reminder that Jackson isn’t alone in its housing crisis.
“Whether you’re a small county of 20,000 people or you’re a large county of millions of people, there’s a lot of similarity in the challenges we’re all facing,” Norton said.
Norton traveled to Washington for the launch of a new national task force formed with the goal of finding housing solutions. She’s one of 30 members in the National Association of County Officials group, which is composed of representatives from across the country. Communities from Sacramento County, California to Miami-Dade County, Florida are represented.
The group’s main focus is identifying solutions to the country’s growing housing affordability crisis, leveraging partnerships between the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Norton is especially excited to learn about ways her department could continue to partner with the private sector for housing projects, like it did for the Jackson Street Apartments affordable housing project — a partnership between Teton County, the Cumming Foundation and the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole.
“It’s really interesting to hear what other places are doing,” Norton said, “and really sharing lessons learned to see if any of the projects or programs that they put together in other places are scalable to Teton County.”
According to Norton, Teton County is on the “bleeding edge” of housing policy for small communities. She said the county is ahead of the curve when it comes to collecting data, and other communities were especially interested in the county and town’s annual Indicator Report, which evaluates progress on issues such as workforce housing.
While the task force is focused on specific policy solutions on the state and national level, Norton said the meetings are also an opportunity for more organic collaborations.
“I was talking to somebody from Juneau, Alaska, who was in one of my groups, and we happened to know some developers who were in Alaska, and I said, ‘Oh, I’ll connect you with them,’” Norton said.
The November meeting also served as a reminder that it’s not just people in the low-income range who are impacted by the affordable housing crisis.
“It is middle class Americans,” she said. “It’s middle class Americans here in Teton County, and it’s middle-class Americans in Ohio.”
The group will meet three more times over the course of the year and commission research papers on different housing solutions. It will present its findings in July.