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Town on hunt for more housing for employees

By Ben Graham, Jackson Hole Daily
March 29, 2013

The town of Jackson is looking to add to its stock of 11 housing units for its employees. But it’s going to have to do some shopping.

Town staff in charge of housing hoped to close on a house at 660 Hall Ave. in the first weeks of April, but a buyer with first right of refusal swooped in, Assistant Town Manager Roxanne Robinson said.

The town is continuing its search and wants to acquire another house before the fiscal year ends June 30, she said.

“It’s still a good time to buy employee rental units,” because the market is down, Robinson said, and demand is high.

Robinson said the number of employees interested in renting from the town is greater than the number of spaces available. At times, she said, she has had to draw names out of a hat.

“As an employer, we have some obligation to satisfy employee housing needs,” although technically the town isn’t required to do so, Town Manager Bob McLaurin said.

The town owns nine houses, one of which is divided into two residences. Another three-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling is located above the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum.

The housing is split between five members of the Jackson Police Depart­ment, three START bus staffers, two public works employees and one person from the town planning and building department.

The town collects a total of $11,400 in rent a month from those tenants. The town anticipates pulling in $126,000 this year in rent while spending $69,000 on housing upkeep.

Robinson noted that many of the houses are old and require maintenance.

Part of the aim is to keep certain types of town staff in the community.

“We’ve always had the goal of housing critical employees in the town limits,” Robinson said. “We have a number of law enforcement officers that live in Star Valley or over the pass.”

That goes for information technology staff, and water and sewer workers as well.

The town’s internal rental housing policy requires that those kinds of employees have first priority.

“If you call 911, you don’t want to wait 45 minutes for someone to come over the pass or up the canyon,” McLaurin said.

Having available housing also helps the town lure employees.

“In terms of employee recruitment and retention, it’s an effective tool,” McLaurin said.

For the 2013 fiscal year budget, the town received $543,000 from the state it can use for one-time employee housing expenditures.

 

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