Closed in Jackson

‘Closed for business’  in Jackson

Painfully tight housing affects businesses 

JACKSON, Wyo. – One day this summer, Bart Davis decided he had to close down Sweetwater, his restaurant in Jackson – not because he wanted to, but simply because he didn’t have enough employees.

He doesn’t expect things to get much better as Jackson Hole moves into the shoulder season.

“There’s just no housing,” he says. “Any housing that there is costs $3,000 to $4,000 a month.”

Closed_SignEverywhere, the economy has been roaring back, and in mountain towns more in tourism than in real estate. But Jackson’s housing issues seem far more severe than elsewhere.

“The Children’s Learning Center just told me they had four people quit because of housing and move on,” reports Christina Walker, executive director of the Teton County Housing Authority. “Park and recreation can’t hire lifeguards, which they attribute in part to housing. The sheriff’s department is challenged with getting dispatchers. The Four Seasons (hotel) has indicated that they had positions they could not fill this summer, particularly in the kitchen.”

Jackson is building housing: Habitat for Humanity has 4 units coming on line, and Walker’s organization will deliver 20 new units next year, while Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will add housing for about 50 employees next year. Other projects are also going forward.

But it’s a measure of the challenge that Walker, after nine years at the housing agency, is leaving at the end of September. “I don’t feel like I’ve been provided the resources to be successful,” she says. She has contracted to guide the housing authority’s next big project, a 68-unit project, and she has heard of interest in her skills from the private sector.

The housing shortage, she says, is not quite as severe as in the boom leading up to the 2007-2009 recession, “but it’s trending in that direction.”

She sees a shifted demand, more for rental housing as opposed to ownership affordable housing. Walker also sees rental housing in the residential sector now being rented out for greater revenue through Internet sites such as AirBnb.

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About Allen Best

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
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