Here’s the text of my letter to the editor that was printed in Planet Jackson Hole on 10/28/16 and in the Jackson Hole News and Guide on 11/4/15:
We must not raise taxes or use taxpayer money to subsidize workforce housing for the private sector.
Our affordable housing problem is a problem between employers and employees, and the government should not get in the middle. If employers are having trouble filling positions they need to either pay higher wages, subsidize housing for their employees, or rework their business plans to operate more efficiently.
To require the general public to subsidize workforce housing through government subsidies creates a windfall not only for the lucky individuals who are able to take advantage of large housing subsidies, but more importantly a windfall for employers who are able to enjoy having the taxpayers pay part of their employee costs. This is a blatant form of corporate welfare, and only throws more fuel on the fire of our overheated economy by publicly subsidizing private commercial enterprises.
Why are we even talking about low-wage jobs in a community that has negative unemployment?
Take for instance the controversial rent increases at Blair Place; a $500 per month increase in rent could be mitigated by a $2 or $3 per hour raise in wages for the average tenant, but as long as the government is ready to rush in and subsidize housing costs businesses will continue to avoid paying the full cost of their employees, and the taxpayer will continue to get the shaft.
If employers can’t fill low-wage positions then wages should rise until those positions become attractive to potential employees, and if higher wages create a headwind to economic growth is that really a problem in the current local economic climate? Slower growth would mean, fewer jobs, less traffic, and less demand for workforce housing.
I urge our elected officials: Do not raise taxes, and do not use taxpayer money to subsidize workforce housing for the private sector. Those are the “do nots.” Here are the “dos”:
1. Do use taxpayer money to subsidize housing for public sector employees. We are all stakeholders in local government, and we have an interest in making sure it provides its services as efficiently and at as low a cost as possible.
2. Do create well-crafted incentives to spur the private sector to develop high-density workforce housing in the core-urbanized areas of Town.