This is my unedited Q&A with John Spina that formed the basis for his “Council candidates outline housing plans” article in the 8/3/16 issue of the Jackson Hole News and Guide:
John Spina: What is the best option for Jackson to produce more affordable housing — public/private partnerships, zoning/land development regulations, tax incentives, the free market etc?
Judd Grossman: The best option to produce workforce housing is to implement a Workforce Housing Overlay in the walkable urban commercial core of Jackson. In this overlay we should allow significant density bonuses exclusively for employment based deed-restricted housing. These units should be limited in size. They should have few restrictions other than that the resident is employed full time in the local economy, and the parking requirement should be reduced or waived on these units. Parking requirements are the biggest road block to density, and density is the key to affordability. The Workforce Housing Overlay will give employers and employees the opportunity to take care of their own housing needs without relying on massive unsustainable public subsidies, and without exacerbating our traffic problems.
When businesses ask the public to subsidize housing expenses for their private employees that’s corporate welfare. The last thing we should be doing is subsidizing businesses to make it easier for them to expand and add to our glut of jobs. Employers need to step up to the plate and pay their employees higher wages, or subsidize their housing directly. The government needs to step up and provide zoning incentives through a Workforce Housing Overlay that will create the density necessary for employment based deed restricted housing to be affordable.
John Spina: If funds are not secured through the general sales tax, how can the town find money to support housing projects, or should it stay out housing development all together?
Judd Grossman: Town government should stay out of the business of providing housing for the private sector, and instead focus aggressively on providing housing for it’s own employees. We are all stakeholders in the public sector, so it’s reasonable to use tax dollars to subsidize public employee housing. The current initiatives to add public employee housing to the Parks and Rec maintenance building and to the START bus barn are excellent uses of public funds. Providing housing for public sector workers has the added benefit of opening up housing stock for private sector workers.
SPET is the perfect vehicle for funding further public sector employee housing initiatives. That’s why we need to defeat the blank check General Excise Tax increase in November and reinstate SPET, so that we can fund community priorities with community oversight.
John Spina: Any creative ideas to quickly alleviate pressure — in-town camping, temporary trailers, driggs/victor/alpine?
Judd Grossman: I do not support in-town camping, or temporary trailers. Commuting from out of county is always going to be part of the long term housing solution, and can take some of the pressure off in the short term, as well.
We need to stop subsidizing business and stop expanding development rights. Our overheated economy is drawing thousands of workers to town who then compete with locals for housing. Just because we currently have an overheated economy and employers have expanded without accounting for how to house their workers doesn’t mean that we have to turn our stable neighborhoods into campgrounds, or approve reckless haphazard development that blows up the Comprehensive Plan.
John Spina: Feelings on ARUs?
Judd Grossman: ARUs are perfectly reasonable in the areas of town that have multi-famly zoning. ARUs allow incremental expansion of the housing supply without the need for complete redevelopment.
I oppose ARUs in the Town Periphery and other single family areas of town that have been identified as stable low density neighborhoods in the Comprehensive Plan. The new ARU rules could double or triple the density in those neighborhoods in direct contradiction of the Comp Plan Character Districts – creating traffic impacts that will fundamentally change those neighborhoods. Good planning says to focus density in the urban core rather than pushing it out into the periphery.