The median price of a home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming: $3.89 million.
In the nearby Teton Valley, Idaho — just over the peak of the Grand Teton as the crow flies — home prices are trending up 33 percent year over year. Regardless of the movements of the national housing market, this little region, tucked away on the state line of Idaho and Wyoming, is a bubble made of billionaire wealth, limited resources and a middle class caught in between. And the bubble just won’t seem to burst.
With home prices come other trappings commonly found in the neighborhoods of the exorbitantly wealthy pockets of America: homeowners associations, mansions, and covenants, conditions and restrictions. But in a twist of irony, the very things that defined living in the West for generations — self-sufficiency, unpretentiousness, proximity to nature — are now an act of rebellion for some.
Sea Marie Biladeau grew up in Idaho. After living in Colorado, she recently decided to move back to her home state with her partner, Devin Pool. Biladeau tried looking at traditional real estate, but only found enormous homes with massive price tags. In a search for land to build something smaller on, she learned about CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions, which dictate what owners can do on land they own.) “The requirements were crazy — the materials, the square footage and also limitations on your personal freedom,” she says. “I guess I’m really an Idahoan after all!” So the couple found an 11-acre piece of property with a creek running through it for $165,000 and built a yurt.
Biladeau and Pool aren’t the only ones. Look closely into the rolling valleys and the evergreen forests, and you’ll find them: rotund walls of stretched canvas with the smell of wood burning rolling from the chimneys. No one has an accurate count of how many are in the area, since so many of the structures are unpermitted. But these Westerners have turned a 3,000-year-old Mongol dwelling into a housing crisis hack.