Kate Roberts is a young Jackson resident, preschool teacher, and Conservation Leadership Institute participant who traveled to Cheyenne to give comment on the recent proposed anti-housing bill. Read her thoughts below.
Thank you for your time today. My name is Kate Roberts and I live in Teton County. I’d like to comment in opposition of this bill. I’d also like to note that while I don’t currently live in an affordable housing unit, I am one “for sale” notice away from being chucked into the pool of absurd free market rental rates of Jackson and likely being priced out of Teton County. The reason why I’m speaking is because I work as a pre-K teacher at a non-profit that provides academic support services in the community. Our programs are free, and a good portion of our families fall in the 0-50% Median Family Income range. The parents of my students are not here to give comment because they are working sometimes 2-3 jobs to afford housing. I can’t think of a single industry in our tourism-driven community that isn’t propped up by year-round low-income employees.
Because my job includes home visiting, I see and hear on a regular basis how difficult it is for our families to secure stable housing. Often I see families doubling up in apartments, doing extended stays in hotels, or temporarily staying with friends and family in Idaho and commuting over Teton pass. When Teton Pass is closed, which it regularly does in the winter for accidents or avalanche mitigation, these families drive extra hours through the Palisades just to get their kids to school. I hear these stories, but what I see as a pre-K teacher is 3, 4 and 5 year old students who are bone tired at 8am from living situations that put them in survival mode.
Research shows that unstable housing puts low-income children far behind their peers on academic and health outcomes, from attendance to test scores to the myriad detrimental effects of elevated cortisol in the bloodstream. These students are going to grow up in the Teton County school system and are likely to contribute to our community in their adult life.
If we truly value early childhood education, we first need to ensure these kids have a stable, affordable place to live. Without secure housing, high-quality pre-K can only go so far. By taking away one of the only tools we have to fund affordable housing, this bill is a critical threat to Teton County students. I really am curious about the committee’s ideas for how an “incentive-based system” will give us enough affordable housing for our community to work. Housing mitigation rules do work, and have already created hundreds of units that are permanently restricted to local workers.
Please don’t advance this bill to session- let Teton County decide how to handle its housing crisis, as we are the ones who see how it affects us and our most vulnerable. Thank you again for your time and consideration.