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Draft Codes & Housing Needs

March 10, 2015

Ashley Koehler, City of Driggs

Brittany Skelton, City of Victor

Jason Boal, Teton County

Re: Draft Codes and Housing Needs

Dear All:

Firstly, we at VARD want to thank you for all of your hard work in reviewing the draft development codes for each of your jurisdictions. Your diligence and coordination is greatly appreciated, and a consistent code framework throughout Teton Valley will certainly encourage predictable, quality development.

We would also like to thank you for exploring the variety of housing options available for meeting the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse community. The current microhousing discussion is intriguing, and we applaud your efforts to seek innovative housing solutions. To ensure that our valley’s development codes match its present and future needs, we would like to draw your attention to a few relevant points contained in the Teton County, Idaho section of the 2014 Western Greater Yellowstone Housing Needs Assessment (HNA). These points are as follows:

#1. The Area Median Income (AMI) in Teton County is $54,903 (HNA, 5).

#2. 83% of Teton County households (which includes the incorporated cities of Driggs, Victor, and Tetonia) have indicated they need at least 2 or more bedrooms. For households with incomes equal to or less than 50% of Area Median Income, this number is 89% (HNA, 5).

#3. 22% of Teton County households are comprised of one adult living alone, and 34% of households are comprised of couples with no children. The balance of the population is comprised of either couples with children, single parents with children, unrelated roommates, or extended/multigenerational families (HNA, 7).

#4. 53% of Teton County households have a member that commute to Teton County, WY (HNA, 24). This number is 72% in Victor (HNA, 34).

#5. Approximately 35 additional rental units are now needed in Teton County in the following income categories (HNA, 30):

50% and below AMI: 11 units

50-80% AMI: 11 units

80-120% AMI: 7 units

120%+ AMI: 6 units

#6. Rental demand is highest in the southern end of the valley (HNA, 18).

#7. Approximately 651 additional ownership units are now needed in Teton County in the following income categories (HNA, 30):

50% and below AMI: 45 units

50-80% AMI: 143 units

80-120% AMI: 272 units

120%+ AMI: 191 units

#8. Single-family units are by far the most preferred among housing types in Teton County – 91% of county residents expressed that as their first housing choice (HNA 31).

In addition, the HNA makes the following recommendations (HNA, 35): 

-Encourage Accessory Housing Units

-Enact Fee Waivers/Reductions (e.g. sewer & water hookups) for Affordable Housing Units

-Develop Entry Level Homeownership Opportunities

-Work with Habitat for Humanity

-Pursue Self-Help Housing

-Develop Apartments

-Adopt the Model Code in Order to Provide Allowances for a Variety of Housing Types

-Create a Housing Weatherization/Rehabilitation Program

-Concentrate Housing in Appropriate, Sustainable Areas that are walkable and accessible to employment, shopping, and services as well as access to transit.

We also note that the HNA recommends that a County Housing Authority is formed in order to coordinate these efforts.

Given these findings in the HNA, VARD offers the following points for consideration: 

#1. Microhousing is one of many arrows in the housing quiver: About of Teton County residents are comprised of one-member households, the household type most likely to find microhousing adequate. It may be reasonable to assume that only a portion of this demographic is interested inthis type of housing since 83% of county households have expressed a need for 2 or more bedrooms. As such, over-prescribing microhousing should be avoided.

#2. Housing needs in Teton Valley are heavily tilted toward ownership, and in order to meet ownership demand, a variety of housing products will be necessary. There is also a great demand for single-family housing types. Despite the huge demand for ownership housing, the market is currently producing few units that are accessible to households with incomes at or below 120% AMI (HNA, 17). This equates to a maximum sales price of $238,700. In order to meet housing needs at various income levels, ownership products are now needed at various price points below this figure. Perhaps a variety of single-family products can best be accomplished by applying the complete array of single-family zone types found within the Regional Model Code in the cities at appropriate locations. The RS-7, RS-5, and RS-3 zoning districts in the Regional Model Code may open up new options for single-family units at lower price points. The various building types in the Regional Model Code and the Driggs and Victor draft codes provide many useful options for providing single-family or “near” single-family options. Examples include Attached House, Side-by-Side Duplex, Back-to-Back Duplex, and Cottage Court.

#3. Proximity to shopping, employment, services, and transit are key to affordable housing development. It is well-known in planning circles that walkable neighborhoods with access to town amenities is key to quality, sustainable development, and that is certainly true in Teton Valley. However, our valley is unique in its large number of commuters, the vast majority of which work in Jackson Hole. As such, it is strongly recommended that residential density is oriented toward existing and future (but feasible) START bus routes. Commuting costs in Teton County average $1,012/month per household, and transit is very useful in ameliorating cost-of-living expenses. Also, START bus service should be seriously considered when lands are designated for an affordable housing overlay.

We hope these comments are of use to you and offer any assistance going forward. Best of luck in the code review process.

Sincerely,

Shawn W. Hill

Executive Director

Valley Advocates for Responsible Development

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