Triano: Home ownership takes hard work
County candidate favors rental program that lets people save to buy homes.
By Cara Froedge, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
October 8, 2008
When asked if he’s in touch with Jackson’s working class, Dennis Triano likes to tell the story of how he got here.
It was 1988, and the 62-year-old Republican candidate for Teton County commissioner had been living in Tucson, Ariz., when the real estate market began to slump.
With business slow, Triano and his wife decided to move to Jackson for just a year. He withdrew all the money they had, $12,000, from the bank and drove north with a large stack of bills. Triano, his wife, his teenage son, a dog and a cat settled in a small “Class A” motor home at Cowboy Village.
“The money was gone in about six months,” Triano said. “We were basically broke.”
So Triano and his wife went back to work. She took a job at Snow King Resort. He sold property for Eagle Mountain Real Estate.
It wasn’t long before Triano made a sale, the property on which Teton County Library is located today. He made about $36,000 on the deal.
The following year, he bought out his employer and started an appraisal business with his wife. In the years that ensued, they have bought and sold many properties. It took 20 years to move from that motor home to his home today in the Solitude neighborhood.
Semiretired, Triano takes no issue with being characterized as a wealthy guy who spends most days golfing.
He notes that where he is today is the product of perseverance and hard work. While working his way up the property ladder, he also had medical issues he had to work through.
In 1993, he was diagnosed with agoraphobia. Then, Triano said, he could hardly leave the house, drive five blocks or even fly. After going on disability for a short time, he was treated with medication, which he still takes.
“I came here almost a homeless person,” he said. “I’m not out of touch at all. If you want to live here bad enough, you can.”
That’s a message that Triano wants to spread as the Nov. 4 general election approaches. As one of four candidates for two open seats, Triano’s platform sets him apart from opponents.
He’s the only candidate who opposes affordable housing.
“I think the way it is structured is outrageous,” he said.
Triano said he wasn’t always political; however, decisions in recent years compelled his race for office.
“I’ve watched a lot of really bad decisions being made by the people in charge of our political system,” he said. “I’ve never really been a political person – I’m still not – but I feel likes there’s things that need to be done.”
Triano said that the lack of affordable housing is a lingering problem, which indicates the program is not working. Affordable homes drive up real estate prices and just make ownership even less possible, he said. Additionally, it forces free-market owners and developers to shoulder the costs. Triano views that as illegal.
He also said the system has been abused by people trying to make a buck.
Even when he first arrived 20 years ago, Triano said, affordable housing was a top issue.
“It was an election year, and I remember the main thing on the election was affordable housing,” he said.
Triano and his wife were able to buy their first condo across from the Elk Refuge in 1991 for $90,000. That purchase, he said, was a stretch. They borrowed half the money from his sister.
Within a few years, Triano was able to sell his condo for $125,000, trading up for a $300,000 house at the base of Saddle Butte.
Two years later, he sold that house and moved north of town to a $400,000 home. After four years, he bought the house next door and remodeled it. This year, he sold that property and moved to Solitude.
“The avenue we chose is to invest in the community and watch it grow and invest again and invest again,” Triano said. “We started from scratch. If you work hard enough and get lucky enough, you can go anywhere you want. It’s not a God-given right to own property.”
Instead, Triano believes in affordable rentals. If elected, he would promote county-controlled apartments with inexpensive rents. Inexpensive, he said, would be about $400 a month, cheap enough to allow residents to save money for a down payment to buy a free-market home.
Even in today’s market, Triano said he believes home ownership is possible.
“It depends on how hard you work and what you do,” he said. “We did it.”
Triano also calls the lack of a lodging tax a travesty.
With 7,000 rooms rented nightly, a $10 per room tax could generate $2 million a month, he said.
Triano said that if he is elected, his job during the first six months would be educating other commissioners and valley residents about his ideas. Don’t expect Triano to be silent.
“Basically, I’m going to go in there and be a pain in everybody’s butt,” he said. “I will be the person to speak out. I’m not a follower.”