Jackson Hole: Far from a dreamy getaway

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Image: Curbed

Yellowstone National Park is a wonder of nature, and one of the most beautiful areas in the United States, if not the world.

Which is why it’s no wonder that people would be willing to pay a lot of money to live there. Fortunately, the majority of land around the park is federally protected, and thus off-limits to housing developers, protecting one of the countries most diverse and precious natural resources.

The fact that so much land in the area is not available for housing has resulted in there really only being one large town in the area surrounding the park: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Jackson Hole is its own wonder, providing a laid back atmosphere, great skiing, and some truly breathtaking scenery.

As a result of this confluence of factors, Jackson Hole is a pretty popular place to live, resulting in real estate trading at a premium. In fact, just last year the price of real estate in the town rose over thirty percent. Of course, there is an unintended consequence to this rise in real-estate value; namely, that the people native to Jackson Hole can often not afford to live there.

The rise in real estate speculation that has resulted from the companies buying land for tourist accommodations, and the influx of billionaires who want to set up summer homes in the area has meant that people of modest means really don’t have much of a chance when it comes to finding a place to live in the town.

In fact, even those who do have a place to live are coming home to find eviction notices pinned to their door, as landlords seek to renovate apartments in the city and rent them to tourists at a higher rate.

Last year tenants in some parts of Jackson Hole found out that their rent was being hiked by more than 40%. And those that couldn’t afford the increase faced a stark choice: stay, and struggle to find a place to sleep, or leave the town they call home.

For those who choose to stay, the issue of being able to afford rent is an ever-present struggle. It is estimated that less than 10% of the available housing in Jackson Hole could be considered “affordable,” and that’s assuming that prospective tenants can find an available unit at all in a town where less than 1% of rental properties are unoccupied at any given moment.

Part of the problem is the fact that the huge number of tourists visiting the town make housing subject to extreme seasonal variation. It is estimated that for the majority of the year up to 43% of homes sit empty, waiting for owners to return for the tourist season. All the while people who work in the city are struggling to find a place to stay.

The only available solutions are less than ideal. As you might expect from people living near Yellowstone, the people in Jackson Hole who have no place to go often end up living out of a tent during the warm summer months. Others commute up to an hour from towns in the area to Jackson Hole.

And some are simply staying with friends, sometimes cramming two or three families into small apartments.

With tourism to the area expected to continue growing and no plans for the construction of affordable housing, it seems that the housing crisis in Jackson Hole will continue for the foreseeable future.

Some possible options have been raised, such as building more affordable housing, changing zoning laws, or simply building higher apartment buildings, increasing the number of available units.

It remains obvious though that something has to be done, or Jackson Hole may not remain the special place it is now.

Wyatt is a writer and your friend. You can follow him on Twitter @WyattRedd.

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