Our biggest current issue today is the lack of affordable and/or secure housing. We made a commitment in the Comprehensive plan to house 65% of our workforce locally, and all data shows that we are failing to do this.
Some may argue that we should abandon that commitment, but I believe that doing so will set us on a path which will end with turning Jackson into a resort town – a town with no sense of community, a workforce that commutes and holds no connection to the town, empty second homes, the dispersion of friends and families, and a loss of quality of life and community values for those who remain.
Not everyone can live here. And we aren’t (nor have we or should we) going to be giving houses to people. But if we’re going to continue to add more jobs (especially low-paying service jobs) we must give the people who work those jobs an opportunity to have secure housing they can afford. We need more affordable home ownership, and we need more secure and affordable rentals.
The free market can’t provide this type of housing on its own. We can convince developers to provide it, but only by altering our current rules in ways which will cause more problems through increased growth and the creation of even more low-paying jobs that will require even more affordable housing, and will also require us to make sure they make a profit. That profit will ultimately come from the taxpayer in the form of money or reduced quality of life.
The solution is for the community to take responsibility for solving its housing problems, and not wait around for half-measures and “one step forward, two steps back” solutions from the private sector. It can do that by raising revenue and dedicating it to a housing trust fund, ensuring that the money will only be spent on housing. We have a range of options available for raising those funds, but it’s important we make sure we are raising those funds in a fair way and from those who are causing the negative impacts we are spending money to alleviate.