Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of housing-related articles on Buckrail. In these articles, Buckrail will refer to the current lack of housing, high rental prices, and low sales inventory as a “situation.”
JACKSON, Wyo. — During yesterday’s Town and County Joint Information Meeting, April Norton, Joint Housing Department Director, presented the Jackson Town Council and the Board of County Commissioners with the annual housing supply plan and housing department work plan. During the presentation, Norton shared data about the current housing market, putting numbers to the housing situation the community is currently facing.
As many community members are experiencing first-hand, rental rates are on the rise in Teton County, as well as the surrounding areas, as demand for rentals continues to increase. The Housing Department found that between quarter four of 2019 and quarter four of 2020, rental rates in Teton County increased 9% for a two-bedroom apartment. The average two-bedroom apartment costs $2,472 per month. Mobile home lots also increased 11% to $730 per month.
In Star Valley, rental rates for a two-bedroom apartment increased 19% with an average rate of $745. The estimated commuting cost from Star Valley is about $600 per month. Teton Valley Idaho saw the largest rental rate increase of 60% overall, with an estimated monthly commuting cost of $500.
With rental rates increasing, many households are being forced out of the area because they simply do not have the income. According to the Housing Department, in Teton County, the median family income for one person is about $81,000 per year, for two people it is about $92,000 per year, for three people it is about $104,000 per year, and for four people it is about $115,000 per year. The current market shows that a three-person and four-person household are the only households that can afford an average two-bedroom apartment rent of $2,600 per month.
According to the Housing Department’s data, over half of critical infrastructure workers commute to Jackson. The Jackson Police Department has 40 staff members and 50% of them commute. 61% of the Sheriff’s Office 75 person staff live outside of the community. About 32% of St. John’s 872 person staff commute to work, with only 7% living in employer-provided housing.
Councilmember Jim Rooks brought up a question about how many of these critical infrastructure workers actually want to live locally, he said, “We get that stat a lot. Half of them live outside of the Valley. I would very much like to know the number of those people who desire to move back to Jackson. I know a lot of those folks and there are a lot of reasons they might live there including being able to have a five or 10-acre ranch and snow machines and horses and everything else and they are not going to be able to get that.”
Norton explained that the Housing Department will be conducting a housing needs survey for county employees, checking in to see how many people are interested in living locally, asking, “If you are a commuter, what would entice you to move back, and what are your reasons for having moved away?” explained Norton.
Norton also shared examples of how real estate prices have also increased significantly in the past few decades. She used a single-family home in Cottonwood park as an example. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,320 square-foot home was built in 1991 and sold for $120,000, which was affordable to a household earning the median income at that time, explained Norton. In 2021, that same home was listed for $1,295,000, “by the time it did hit the MLS, it was already under contract. Cash buyer, sight unseen,” said Norton, “That’s 11 times the median family income.” The home is only affordable to someone making over $210,00 per year. The buyer, noted Norton, does not live full-time at the home.
Another home, located in Melody Ranch, was listed recently for $2,969,000. The three-bedroom, two and one-half-bathroom, two-car garage, single-family home sold in 2003 for about $460,000, which at that time was seven times the median family income. “It’s about 25 times the median family income, that’s 25 times,” repeated Norton.
Cash buyers and investors are outbidding the local community, and many homes are not even reaching the market. According to data collected by the Housing Department, in April 2021 alone, the real estate market reported $151,500,000 in total sales volume, with only 52 closings reported on the MLS. About 40% of listings do not even reach the MLS because they are sold immediately through interoffice emails. “Our local workers who are trying to get into units are competing against some pretty deep pockets,” said Norton.
Norton discussed how deed restrictions may combat the issue of out-of-town buyers, forcing out the local workforce. “We are seeing a lot of our local workforce being forced out of their homes and not having any place to go. Now is the absolute time to be investing in affordable housing. It might be more expensive but do you know what is more expensive, losing our community because we don’t have any workers left,” said Norton.
About The Author
Buckrail @ Lindsay
Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.
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