This article is in responsive to the current housing crisis that is gripping resort towns across the United States. Its such big news these days that VICE wrote an article titled “Homelessness and Housing Shortages are a Big Problem in Luxury Resort Towns like Jackson Hole” on 12 January 2016.
“The one-time cowboy hangout of the 1940s and hippie pit-stop of the 1960s – a valley with the town of Jackson at its center – now caters to a new clan: the Forbes 400.” Warner, Gary. (Jan. 1995) “The Wealthy Have Taken A Liking To Jackson Hole”
Death of the American Ski Bum
At some point in our history people starting to migrate out of populated cities in search of a better life. The mountains have always called hippies, artist and nature lovers alike. So it made sense that mountain towns across North America become a cluster for like minded folks wanting a simpler, healthier way of living. Houses were cheap, jobs barely paid anything but when you have the outdoors in your backyard, access to local meats, vegetables, water and much more you start to realize all that one really needs in life is food, shelter and throw in love for good measure.
However in recent years the often greedy real-estate market caught wind of what was happening in these hippie mountain towns. Ski resorts changed their business models and revenue sources from selling lift tickets to selling land to developers. When ski resorts as a whole start focusing on their bottom line instead of the skier experience were all going to be hosed.
The current problem lies in the fact that unless you come from wealth, and lots of it (not middle class American wealth) but east coast 1% wealth you will never have a chance to buy land or a home in a ski town. You just may qualify for a $300,000 low income condo if that’s your sort of thing…
At a recent avalanche talk in town, American Avalanche Institute founder and long time local Rod Newcomb had this to say “I doubt anyone in this room over 30 was raised in Jackson.”
The problem with open space and lack of housing in Jackson Wyoming explained. aka the LAND TRUST:
A whopping 25,000 acres of open space in Teton County has been donated to the Jackson Hole Land Trust over the years making the land off limits to any future developments. As an environmentalist I like this, as someone feeling the lack of housing I start to question such a large scale holding of property does anyone but current property owners any benefit. Take a look at the image below, the ares in bright green are owned by the Land Trust land, the dark green is national parks / forest areas.
Who Owns Jackson Hole?
The most expensive ranch for sale in the United States according to the WSJ is located in Jackson, WY at the The Jackson Hole Land and Cattle Ranch. This 1,750 acre ranch can be your for a small sum of $175 Million. Could a savvy developer take on the financial risk and build a community of sorts located minutes outside of town, essentially ending our housing crisis rather quickly? That’s impossible as the buyer will not be able to subdivide the land thanks in part to the former Jackson Hole Alliance for Responsible Planning and current Teton County regulations. The land will stay as is forever..
Lockhart Cattle also known as Leeks Canyon Ranch LL, Callahan River Ranch LLC, Porter River Ranch LLC owns most of the remaining land around Jackson. Along with their sprawling Ranch south of town the families own all the land from the Snake River Bridge in Wilson along the Snake River levee all the way to the Snake River Bridge South of town. We’re talking thousands of acres, millions if not billions in land value. Don’t let blue jeans fool you, most people here have more money than you can fathom.
Cody and Chase Lockhart, run the Lockhart Cattle Company, their brand a heart with an L inside. Cody also doubles as a financial adviser for Wells Fargo so clearly his family understands the value of their land. In recent years numerous court rulings have taken place between the families regarding ownership and access to these lands. Money does funny things to people, especially families fighting over land or better yet millions and millions of dollars. Wonder what their grandfather would think of all of this?
Why would anyone evern want to live in the mountains?
EASY Housing Solutions Explained:
Towns like Jackson should really consider allowing landowners to build extra “rental” structures on their land, provided they are for the rental market. More inventory would equal lower prices for renters while the landowners would take on the investment and risks as well as the financial gains that come from it. Currently Teton County severely restrict building, and throws numerous obstacles in the path of anyone trying to build.
Easy enough right, nope landowners in Teton County are not able to subdivide their property thanks to the former Jackson Hole Alliance for Responsible Planning and County. Nor are the able to build small structured on their land, even tiny houses..
Another option would be to allow creative, small scale solutions to rental housing. The Tiny House movement is taking off globally. A landowner, for instance could set up Matson shipping container on their property, fully hooked up to power, water and even sewer. As long as it had heat I would consider living in such a place.
Instead of relying on Town and Country Governments why not propose a small scale, dispersed, flexible solution run by the private sector? Clearly the town and country has failed us miserably. And if you’re still reading this, odds are it’s happening in your town to or will soon be.
One would think based on economics, if a group is buying up land that cannot be developed then the rest of the remaining land would raise in value? So whom is donating all this land to the Land Trust, possibly very wealthy land owners in Jackson, Wyoming that want to see their property values raise even more? When is enough enough…
I am going to wrap this article up with two quotes I have heard within the last 6 months when talking about housing publicly in Jackson. “If you cant afford to live here then move” & “go find it elsewhere” this is not how a community is formed. Good luck Jackson…. I can feel the love!