JACKSON (WNE) — County commissioners officially agreed Monday to raise rents at the county’s employee housing units up to “fair market rates,” per U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards.

“If we unmoor from fair market rents, it gets into a pretty challenging discussion to really find a consistent handrail we can use year in and year out,” Commissioner Mark Newcomb said.

County Administrator Alyssa Watkins said Teton County rules have dictated that rents should be based on comparable market rates since the county’s worker housing program began in 2008. Commissioners reaffirmed that policy in August 2018.

But rents have mostly remained the same since then, she said, resulting in rates below market standards.

At the county units, rents are increasing from $685 a month to $1,056 a month for one-bedrooms, from $830 a month to $1,209 for two-bedrooms and from $750 or $1,200 to $1,699 a month for three-bedrooms, housing manager Stacy Stoker said. Those increases will be phased in gradually over four years.

“Four years is a reasonable time to adjust these rents,” Commissioner Mark Barron said. “It’s going to seem like they’re very high simply because they’ve been very, very low.”

Sheriff Matt Carr was disappointed with the change. He said the below-market units offer an important opportunity to maintain emergency and law enforcement workers living in Teton County and give them a chance to save up to buy a home.

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