Jackson Hole’s housing problem has worsened over the past two years, with the coronavirus pandemic compounding the problem. And while the community works on short-term solutions, some advocates are looking to a real estate transfer tax as the best long-term solution to creating finance.
Wes Gardner is the owner of Teton Toys located just across Town Square in Jackson Hole. He has known about the Jackson housing problem for some time, but only felt it personally last year.
“What’s happening in our housing market right now over the last 18-24 months is incredible,” Gardner.
This summer, when his employees had nowhere to live in Jackson, he rotated workers between his Utah and Jackson stores.
“They live with me and my family for a week or two,” Gardner said. “But is it sustainable? For example, absolutely not, ask my wife, it is not sustainable.”
It’s also not ideal for employees who have to live with their boss for two weeks at a stretch.
The pandemic has caused the housing market in Jackson Hole to explode. As the community works on short-term solutions, some advocates are looking to a real estate transfer tax as the best long-term solution to creating finance.
A real estate transfer tax is essentially a sales tax on the property. When a person buys a home, a certain percentage of the home’s value is levied by the state or county. This will create funds that Teton County can use for solutions like building more affordable housing. Gardner wasn’t a fan before.
“It’s a tool. And having access to that tool, in one form or another, would make a huge difference to a community like ours, where real estate is worth billions of dollars every year, and this transfer tax could generate millions that we could then appropriate for our workforce housing needs, ”Gardner said.“ That’s what pushed the needle for me to the point where it’s like, ‘Yeah , duh. Let’s use it. ‘”
“It hits visitors, it hits second home owners, it hits residents. It’s more of an impact, which allows us to kind of take advantage of this crisis and look for ways to address the challenge in a meaningful way. . “
Christine Walker, Shelter JH Policy Chair
Clare Stumpf, coordinator of housing advocacy group Shelter JH, said this could be a long-term solution as funds for housing are limited. The tax could take advantage of some of the second home properties purchased for millions of dollars.
“There has been $ 3 billion in real estate sales in the last year in this county alone. That’s a lot of income that isn’t taxed, that could be taxed,” she said. “And then these funds could go into different coffers, at the county level. So they could go to our affordable housing department, they could go to purchase restrictions to make more and more housing available exclusively to residents.”
This is not the first time that the tax on real estate transfers has been mentioned as a possible solution to housing problems. Teton County Representative Andy Schwartz has introduced a bill to the Legislature on several occasions, but failed each time.
Christine Walker, Shelter JH’s policy chair, said it’s different now because more people are feeling the impact, not just low-income people who are struggling to find a place to live in the city. valley for many years.
“It hits visitors, it hits second home owners, it hits locals,” Walker said. “It’s more of an impact, which allows us to kind of take advantage of this crisis and look for ways to address the challenge in a meaningful way.”
It is true that companies are more open to the possible tax on real estate transfers. A poll conducted this summer by the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce showed that 59% of those polled believed a real estate transfer tax should be implemented to fund Teton’s housing department.
Additionally, Walker said with the state facing an income crisis, other communities may be more supportive of a tax on land transfers.
“There are other communities that are also facing housing affordability issues, and I think this is an opportunity for them to raise revenues as well to meet the challenge,” Walker said. “I think of Sheridan, I think of Laramie County, I think of Lincoln, Sublette County, Park County.”
Whether other communities around the state are on board is still open. No other community in Wyoming has such high real estate values. Jackson’s representative, Mike Yin, agrees that more and more communities across the state are facing housing issues. He is currently working to make the bill more appealing to the whole state.
“I’m trying to have that team effort to try to get other communities that would be interested in this type of solution as well and try to see what it looks like in Teton County first, as well. than having the support of the state as well. “
He’s still working on the details, but another chunk of sales tax revenue should be used for affordable housing or whatever the community decides they want to spend on it. Yin is optimistic that housing is important enough to the state to be debated in the next session.