At the core of any mountain culture is community — the people who embody the lifestyle. They go to work, raise their children, hike in the mountains, hunt in the fall, ski or snow machine in the winter, and make time to see live music. These people live and work in the community, playing a valuable role in its health and vitality.
To Anne Cresswell, director of the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, there is nothing, nothing, more critical to Jackson Hole than people living and working in their community.
The Housing Trust works with philanthropists and public and private partners to put housing solutions on the table and housing developments on the ground. Their goal is to provide long-term housing so essential community workers — teachers, nurses, plumbers, first responders, and park rangers — can live close to where they work.
“The issue is ubiquitous and people are connecting the dots — every single segment of our community is impacted by the lack of affordable housing. It’s unavoidable,” Anne observes, referring to staff shortages at the hospital, high turnover at schools, and restaurants closing a couple days a week. Business owners struggle to find workers and double-income families struggle to find child care. Where is everyone? Well, they’re not here, they can’t find a place to live.
“Two years ago, 8,000 workers commuted to Jackson every day. Now, that number is 10,500,” Anne says. The transient nature of our workforce changes the culture, and the threads of our community tapestry are starting to fray.
As a nonprofit affordable housing developer in Teton County, the Housing Trust is positioned to drive housing opportunities and get them on the ground. The organization has partnered with some of the largest employers in the county — the town, hospital, and school district — and teamed up with private landowners. They’ve also created an initiative that allows small business owners to participate in programs on behalf of their staff.
Anne laughs when I comment on their creativity. “Well, we didn’t really have a choice!” she says.
Due to increased housing pressure and changes that have made the challenge more visible, the Housing Trust has seen an increase in support, but Anne warns that, “This is a long game; we need to keep at it. Every contribution counts, large and small. Every time a project stalls out, there are consequences. It makes it harder in the future to provide that housing.” In addition, building costs have increased and talented builders are moving to other communities.
Anne is also concerned that affordable housing projects are still seen as “growth.”
“It’s not growth, these people are already here,” she clarifies, noting that the average Housing Trust owner has served the community for 10 years before purchasing their home.
With every affordable residence built, the mountain culture that we first fell in love with is strengthened and cemented.