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Workforce Housing Initiatives

The following suggestions elaborate upon County Planning Commission principle #18, “ Place more emphasis on Principal 4.3 and the idea of developing a portfolio of methods for meeting our housing needs that includes rentals, shared equity loans, and [tax] incentives for self imposed housing deed restrictions.”

Affordable Housing Easement

Allow a homeowner to place a voluntary deed restriction upon their home in order to allow the construction of an affordable ARU on their property. This would be an exception to the recommendation to eliminate all ARU’s in the county. In this scenario, a distressed homeowner would be able to sell an easement to the Housing Authority or Housing Trust and provide an additional unit of deed restricted housing in an already developed location with existing infrastructure. The specific requirements of the easement could be left to the Housing Authority in order to target the ARU to the appropriate housing category for the site and current need. The affordable homeowner would own the building but not the ground upon which it’s built, the housing agency (Authority or Trust) would own the easement and administer the ground lease. This is exactly how it is generally done in affordable housing developments today. This would greatly reduce the cost associated with the purchase of property on which to build affordable housing as well as the installation of utility infrastructure, and might well allow an existing homeowner and member of our workforce to stay in their home instead of losing it to forced sale or foreclosure.

Of course, the property would still need to meet all setback, FAR and HOA covenant requirements.

Shared Equity Mortgages

This might also address the needs of a distressed homeowner saddled with an exorbitant mortgage resulting from our inflated housing market. The Town, County or Housing Agency (Authority or Trust) purchases a portion of an existing workforce home, per the Housing Authority’s analysis and determination, rather than purchasing an existing free market home and restricting it as employee based workforce housing as has been discussed. Using the same amount of money as would be necessary to purchase a low end free market home and restrict it as employee based workforce housing, the housing agency could purchase half of two workforce homes, or one quarter of four and deed restrict them similarly. This might allow a number of current members of our workforce to remain in Teton County rather than turning them into commuters, if they choose to stay at all.

Transferable Floor Area

This idea was originally suggested to me by Commissioner Allen, but I include it on this list because it also targets distressed homeowners who are members of the workforce. We have already voted to eliminate ARU’s from the residential development in the county, and capped the residential development in both town and county. Our Employee Generation Task Force has also determined that there are not enough residential units left in town to accommodate the employees generated by its commercial development. Why not allow a homeowner to transfer (or sell) the 1,000 sf that would have been available for a county ARU to a developer (either private or Housing Agency) who wishes to build that 1,000 sf workforce unit in town? This might provide the means for future LDR’s to allow density bonuses which might incentivize the construction of affordable housing and mixed use development without increasing the overall buildout of the county. If the 1,000 sf which was transferred from the county to the town was then subtracted from the allowable 8,000 sf. max. floor area for a residential property, it would result in no net gain of either floor area or number of dwelling units in the overall county. One stipulation to this suggestion would be that the 1,000 sf. must be used for a single workforce home instead of simply increasing the allowable floor area of a luxury condominium project, it must be a 1DU @ 1,000 sf.for 1DU @ 1,000 sf.transfer.

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