Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ketchum officials impressed with Jackson housing

Affordable units financed with sales tax

Express Staff Writer

Affordable housing for the folks that oil the wheels of working resort towns is the real deal, said several Ketchum city officials after a recent tour in Jackson, Wyo.

"You can create neighborhoods that are pure affordable housing that will integrate into (other) neighborhoods just fine," said Ketchum Planning Director Harold Moniz after visiting Jackson.

Moniz, Mayor Randy Hall, City Administrator Ron LeBlanc and other Ketchum officials toured affordable workforce housing neighborhoods in Jackson at the end of September. The tours were part of a Colorado Association of Ski Towns meeting.

The neighborhood of which Moniz spoke is called Ellingwood. It has 36 owner-occupied, deed-restricted units, which means annual appreciation is capped to keep the housing affordable, said Stacy Stoker, communications director for the Teton County Housing Authority. The authority does not rent any units.

"We've got teachers. We've got people who work in professional businesses, and we have construction workers," Stoker said. "They are required to be employed in Teton County full time in order to qualify."

In Jackson they call it "workforce habitat," and in Ketchum they call it affordable workforce housing, but in any bureaucratese it stills means a place to live for which an average salary will pay. Ketchum has been behind the curve in seeing this need, officials admitted, but they are working on playing catch-up.

"I think this community has known about this problem for a long time," Moniz said. "It's unfortunate we haven't done anything about it for the last seven or eight years, and even those efforts have been minor."

In Jackson, builders are required to provide 15 percent of a project's tenant capacity for workforce housing, and that may be increased to 25 percent, Stoker said. In most developments workforce units are built on-site unless there are specific reasons to build off-site. In most Colorado resorts 40 percent is required, she said.

In Jackson much of the funding comes from a special purpose 1-percent sales tax, which voters must approve periodically. Stoker said her agency is trying to think ahead.

"We asked for $5 million to bank land for future affordable housing development" that voters approved in the last election, she said.

Residents seemed pleased with their homes, LeBlanc said. "It looked like a well-planned subdivision."

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