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Town buys apartment building for $745,000

By Ben Graham, Jackson Hole Daily
April 19, 2013

The town of Jackson will shell out $745,000 to buy a small apartment complex at 455 Vine St. that could house four town employees and their families.

Council members unanimously approved the purchase at a meeting Thursday. The town could close on the deal in the next 30 days, Assistant Town Manager Roxanne Robinson said.

Town leaders have been looking to buy more housing since last summer in an effort to help workers find places to live and to assist departments with recruitment and retention.

The cost of living in town leads some staffers to seek housing in places such as Star Valley and Victor, Idaho, 30 to 45 minutes away.

The purchase will bump the town’s housing stock up to 15 units and diversify what’s available.

“When you look at the range of units the town has, there are 11 total, and two of those are apartments,” Robinson said.

The rest are single-family homes.

“This helps round out our housing stock so that we have a mix of units to offer,” she said.

Each of the 760-square-foot apartments has two bedrooms and one bathroom.

New staff could use the space for temporary housing. The potential for living in a town-owned rental also could entice applicants to take jobs.

“At some point we hope the units will house critical response employees,” Robinson said.

The town’s policy is to prioritize housing for workers who need to be close to town in case of emergencies, such as police officers and water and sewer workers.

The east Jackson building currently has three tenants. The fourth apartment is vacant.

Robinson said the town will honor the leases in place.

The town typically signs six-month agreements with renters and then goes month to month after that.

Still, some town workers have spent years in the same town-owned rentals, Robinson said.

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

The cost of the new purchase will be taken out of the town’s employee housing fund balance, which was projected to be near $2 million by the end of the fiscal year in June.

The balance has grown in recent years from unused state funds given to the town that are reserved for one-time purchases.

For the 2013 fiscal year alone, the town received $543,000 from the state.

The town collects about $126,000 a year in rent from its renters and spends a little more than half that on maintaining the units.

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