Photo: Nick Sulzer via Fly JH // Buckrail

JACKSON, Wyo. — A segment on MTV News this week highlighted the influx of celebrities moving to Wyoming, specifically Jackson Hole.

The 7-minute segment known as “The Pop Factor”  discussed the implications of wealthy celebrities moving to Wyoming. According to the video, “Wyoming has the highest number of billionaires per capita…despite being off the beaten path.” The video cited Wyoming’s income tax breaks as the culprit behind this mass exodus of the ultra-wealthy to the state.

A long-standing and contentious issue in the valley, the COVID pandemic has seen a rising trend of more wealthy citizens moving to the northwest corner of Wyoming which has put pressure on locally-based professionals to find affordable housing options.

“For a studio, you’re looking at $1,800 plus, and those are on the lower end of the spectrum,” ShelterJH coordinator Clare Stumpf said in an interview on the segment.

Shelter JH, a Jackson-based nonprofit, is dedicated to addressing the housing crisis in Jackson Hole.

“We are the only housing advocacy group in the valley,” Stumpf told Buckrail. “While we don’t work to build homes, we work to influence local policies that will broaden housing opportunities for locals. We are creating a network of housing advocates that can lobby our electeds to make responsible and progressive choices that prioritize the workforce over the 1%.”

Those considering purchasing property in Wyoming are often motivated by the stunning natural beauty, but there are other reasons why some choose to move to the state. The most well-known is the favorable state tax environment — Wyoming does not impose taxes on income, capital gains, gifts, or estates for resident individuals or trusts, making it beneficial for those looking to buy second, third, or even fourth homes or properties.

“One of our longer-term goals is to enact a real estate transfer tax for the state,” Stumpf said. “This tax could be imposed on homes worth more than $5 million, for example, and therefore still create a stable source of revenue considering the sale prices here, while also protecting those who are purchasing or selling more reasonably-priced property.”

With an influx of ultra-wealthy in Jackson Hole, no one knows for certain what the future of the community will look like. But Stumpf said she thinks the community will erode to the point of being an “ultra-exclusive ghost town”.

“We will have to commute from hours away. As a result, commuters will clog up roads, cause countless wildlife-vehicle collisions, contribute to climate change, and have even fewer hours to spend with their family,” Stumpf said. “Folks who make this community run won’t be able to enjoy our public schools or parks. During winter, schools will simply need to close as teachers won’t be able to access the roads. Fire and EMS services will be increasingly unreliable. Our community will simply erode. Folks work so hard to be able to live in Jackson Hole—we need to prioritize their needs and create a sustainable, inclusive future that values the dedication our local workers have for this valley.”

Buckrail @ Jacob

Jacob Gore was born and raised in Cheyenne, the capital city of Wyoming. As a proud Wyomingite, he loves to share his home with visitors from around the world. Spending years in Jackson and Alaska as an interpretive nature guide, he remains a photographer, traveler, storyteller, and avid hobbyist of all-things outdoors. Jacob enjoys bridging the connection between Jackson and the rest of the state.