Legislative decisions could have local housing implications

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming state legislators on the Corporations, Election, & Political Subdivisions Committee heard two bills that would impact Teton County’s housing supply in very different ways.

The first, a bill that would remove local rights to controlling housing mitigation rules, was approved 8-6. A group of Teton County representatives traveled to Cheyenne to speak both in favor of and against the bill, which many fear would dismantle Teton County’s affordable housing program.

Those opposed to the bill included County Commissioners Natalia Macker and Luther Propst, Representatives Mike Yin and Andy Schwartz, Senator Mike Gierau, Town Councilors Arne Jorgensen and Jonathan Schecter, Mayor Pete Muldoon, and Fire Cheif Brady Hansen. Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr also wrote a letter to the committee opposing the bill, sharing that while 12 members of his department, himself included, live in restricted housing, at least 40 commute from outside Teton County due to lack of housing. “I can tell you that Teton County needs all the possible tools at our disposal and the ability to determine locally how best to deploy them,” Carr wrote.

Town Councilor Arne Jorgensen said he was “disappointed” by the vote.

“It really does strike at the core of what it means for local government to define the tools we have of how to preserve our community,” Jorgensen said. “We have work to do locally.”

Rep. Mike Yin was also disappointed, but encouraged by the public comment he heard at the meeting. “What struck me most was hearing people who were in favor of the bill,” he said. “They weren’t interested in the whole [affordable housing] program going away. They just want to see different solutions.”

Six local businessmen, largely representing Jackson Hole Working, including Joe Rice and Kelly Lockhart, traveled to Cheyenne to support the bill. The Wyoming Realtor’s Association also voiced support of the bill.

Next, the bill will be assigned to either the Senate or the House of Representatives for the 2020 legislative session. Then, leadership in that body will determine the appropriate committee, which will then hear more hearings and decide whether the bill makes it to the floor. “There are still many, many, many more steps to go through,” Jorgensen said.

The Corporations Committee also nixed Yin’s draft bill that would have allowed counties to impose a fee on homes unoccupied for more than six months a year.

Still, it made it to a motion, which Yin said is further than many were expecting. He was just presenting it looking for feedback, and that’s what he got. The committee seemed to appreciate Yin’s innovation, but were wary of how the bill might apply to certain counties.

“The chairman indicated that I was on the right track,” Yin said.

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