JACKSON, Wyo.—After nearly three decades of backlash, Housing Ordinance 473 is set to be reviewed by the town council on April 19. Staunch community activists have generated a compelling case for its repeal, citing discriminatory elements of the ordinance that have affected Jackson residents.
Originally drafted in November of 1993, the ordinance states that “The term family as used in this Code shall mean an individual, or two (2) or more persons related by blood marriage, adoption, or similar legal relationship; or a group of not more than three (3) persons who need not be so related, plus domestic staff employed for services on the premises, living together as a single housekeeping unit in a one-family dwelling or in one unit of a two-family or multiple-family dwelling.”
To simplify, the ordinance states that in the Town of Jackson, no more than three unrelated persons may live in a single-family dwelling.
Since its inception, community members have taken issue with several aspects of the ordinance but most particularly the fact that it is discriminatory to the contemporary definition of family. Jackson resident Mark Houser penned an open letter in March of 1995 that explained how the definition of family has evolved and how this ordinance simultaneously ignores and discriminates against the non-traditional family.
“My principal concern with this new rule is the narrow definition it gives to the term family. For example, a couple may live together in a committed relationship, with or without children. A family may choose to take in foster children,” wrote Houser.
“A woman may be left by her husband and may need to take in a renter in order to keep her house for herself and her children. An individual may find that renting two rooms out is the only way to meet a mortgage payment. A gay or lesbian couple may choose to live in the subdivision.”
30 years later, activist groups such as Act Now JH alongside Shelter JH have made it part of their mission to continue to voice the sentiments of Houser.
Ash Hermanowski, a Shelter JH board member, has grown deeply passionate about this renewed campaign to repeal 473.
“As a queer person this ordinance feels very personal,” said Hermanowski. “It’s been tried many times in the past and the issues aren’t any different. I feel really strongly that it is inherently discriminatory to use the definition of family and to have the town define family to limit housing occupancy.”
While housing is evidently an issue across the board in the Town of Jackson, it is the inequitable bias of this ordinance that Hermanowski views as the real issue at hand.
“Myself and Shelter JH believe that on its principle, whether it’s enforced to nines or not we can’t pretend that this ordinance doesn’t exist and that it’s not making it illegal for different types of families, non-traditional families, chosen families to live in Jackson,” said Hermanowski.
Ordinance 473 will be reviewed and discussed on April 19th (subject to change) by the Jackson Town Council. Members of the community can view the full meeting on the town website. To read the full ordinance click here.