Doug Self really wants people to comment on the Teton County Affordable Housing Strategic Plan.

Self, the community development director of Driggs, has been shepherding the strategic plan along for the last year and a half, facilitating the meetings of the affordable housing technical advisory group that was assembled in August of 2017 and then presenting the resulting plan to the cities and county for revisions. Through that whole process, Self said, the group has received almost nothing in the way of public comment.

On Monday, Feb. 11, he will give one last presentation of the plan to anyone who wants to review it before the county and cities adopt it. The open house will start at 6 p.m. at the commissioners’ meeting room in the courthouse. The plan is available online at driggsidaho.org/ahtag.

After analyzing income data about the community and the cost and need for housing here, the plan outlines a series of strategies, grouped into prioritization tiers and categorized by impact and cost, to cope with the housing crisis.

The plan is meant to serve as a short-term guide for quickly addressing the most promising strategies or low-hanging fruit through existing funding and organizations. It does recommend the activation of the Teton County Housing Authority, but Self said that the county commissioners have been wary of any decisions that require county funding, so that can has been kicked further down the road.

“The housing authority and funding was a bigger discussion that I didn’t want the whole plan derailed by,” he said. “We can have that conversation later as part of the implementation of the plan.”

One strategy has already gone into effect: in October of 2018 the Community Resource Center took ownership of money the county had set aside for housing before the recession and established a security deposit program to help renters who struggle to pay landlords first/last/deposit up front, which can be a significant chunk of change.

Currently Self is working on several longer-term strategies, like pursuing low income housing tax credit projects and other federal assistance programs. He’s also in informal discussions with Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Teton Area, which is interested in a Teton Valley project after it completes the Grove affordable housing development in Jackson. The College of Eastern Idaho and Teton High School are looking into developing a construction trades training program to address the high demand for skilled labor, which raises the cost of construction.

One unusual and easily-implemented strategy the AHTAG came up with is a local buyer pre-listing network. Because the Teton Valley real estate market is very active and attracts investment buyers and second home owners, local workers sometimes find it hard to compete because they don’t have the luxury of speed when house hunting. With the pre-listing, residents will get early access to real estate.

“I’ve talked to a couple of realtors and they’re excited and open to the idea,” Self said.

He anticipates that the elephant in the room at the open house will be short-term rentals. While short-term rentals are one of the factors exacerbating the housing crisis, the strategic plan has no recommendations for regulation. The cities receive income from short-term rentals through business registrations and lodging tax.

“We all just want to better understand that market since it’s a major trend,” Self said. “We want to understand the positives and negatives and how we can leverage the revenue that it generates for affordable housing.”

Representatives from the cities and county and the AHTAG will be at the open house on Feb. 11 to answer questions about the plan.