JACKSON, Wyo. \u2014 Not news: housing in Teton County is expensive.\r\n\r\nThe numbers paint a pretty clear picture: People working in Teton County can seldom afford to live here. The median income for a two-person household is $81,760. The average cost of a single-family home? $1.08 million. In order to afford that, a two-person household would have to earn around $300,000 a year. Even to buy a condo or a townhome would require an almost $100,000 bump salary increase from the median income. Housing costs have skyrocketed over the years, and wages have not kept up.\r\n\r\nThe Jackson\/Teton County Housing Department has long tried to bridge the gap between income and home affordability through deed-restricted housing. They pay for that in a number of ways, explains town councilor Arne Jorgensen, primarily through mitigation (requiring employers, for example, to provide a certain number of housing units to employees), and the town and county's general revenue fund, which comes from standard taxes (property and sales, primarily).\r\n\r\nThere's another option this year: SPET. This year's SPET ballot includes a $5.5 million proposition "for the purchase of appropriately zoned land to develop permanently deed restricted housing thereon and\/or the purchase of deed restrictions to house the local workforce."\r\n\r\nStill taxes, but collected more quickly and for a "specific purpose," as the name suggests.\r\n\r\nWhat purpose?\r\n\r\nThe ballot language around this project is less "specific" than others. The funds are not being collected for a specific piece of land or shovel-ready project \u2014 yet. Instead, they would go into the Jackson\/Teton County Housing Authority Housing Supply account. The Town Council and Board of County Commissioners would then direct and authorize how those funds are spent.\r\n\r\nBut the purpose is still clear and concise, Jorgensen says: the $5.5 million will only ever be spent on increasing the Affordable Housing Department's housing supply.\r\n\r\n"The language is precise," Jorgensen says. "The language is precise so that if we fail, we can't go spend it on something else. It's going to sit in that account until we get our act together."\r\n\r\nBy fail, Jorgensen means fail to act. Fail to agree, fail to make a decision to build affordable housing on a plot of land the town or county already owns. Such has been the case with the plot of land at 440 W Kelly, which has been ripe with controversy and indecision. Town and county electeds have yet to agree on a course of action on that property.\r\n\r\nBut there's plenty the joint boards have agreed on, Jorgensen points out, and there is still plenty of projects that will come down the pipeline. "Regardless of what people want us to do for housing, we need funding to do it," Jorgensen says.\r\n\r\nJorgensen is firm about this: if you don't like what elected officials are doing, hold them accountable. Don't vote for them. But don't take away the tools they have to work with.\r\n\r\n"Holding back funding because of frustration isn't going to change what we're doing," Jorgensen says. "If voters use funding tools as leverage, I guarantee we will continue to have these problems."\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nDeed restrictions 101\r\n\r\nThe housing department provides deed-restricted housing to local members of the workforce. What does that mean, exactly? Deed restrictions "remove [a] unit from the speculative marketplace," Jorgensen explains. They set limits on how much a housing unit can appreciate in order to keep that unit affordable in future sales. Different restrictions mean different things, but what all of them do is restrict the resale market of that unit.\r\n\r\nIncome-based deed restrictions mean that only people who fall into a certain income bracket are eligible to buy a deed-restricted home. Workforce restrictions allow anyone whose primary income comes from Teton County to purchase, regardless of income.\r\n\r\n"It depends on the type of property and its best use, and the goal you're trying to serve," Jorgensen explains.\r\n\r\nWhat's it cost?\u00a0\r\n\r\nMoney collected from SPET could go toward a number of things: buying land to build more deed-restricted housing; building housing on land the town and county already own; buying deed restrictions on units that already exist.\r\n\r\nThe tools the town and county already have \u2014 mitigation and general revenue \u2014 are working, but Jorgensen insists they're not enough.\r\n\r\n"We're doing good work, but it means other things don't get funded if it comes out of our general revenue," Jorgensen says.\r\n\r\nElected officials could choose to raise property taxes with no say from voters in order to make up for shortcomings. Instead, they're asking voters to choose for themselves.\r\n\r\n"To me, housing is a community issue," Jorgensen says. "It's not an employment issue. Employers and developers need to be part of that as members of our community."\r\n\r\nJorgensen is wary of putting too much housing burden on employers. Employment-dependent housing creates an "unhealthy" relationship between employers and employees. It's part of the conversation, Jorgensen says, but it cannot be the only solution.\r\n\r\n"If we're unable to put funding tools together, we need to have a serious discussion as a community," Jorgensen says.\r\n\r\n"This is a long game," he adds. "That's what makes this hard. It's a long-game, and it's complicated."