County could change how affordable housing funds are distributed
April 11, 2014
The recent approval of a 23,500-square-foot expansion to the Tanger Outlets at Kimball Junction took perhaps longer than it otherwise would have because of one key issue how money for affordable housing was given from the developer to a non-profit group. At Wednesday’s County Council meeting, members discussed how this process could be made easier in the future.
Because the expansion of the Tanger Outlets constituted a new Specially Planned Area (SPA), the developer was required to either 1) build on-site affordable housing, 2) build off-site affordable housing, 3) donate land to a "community-based housing non-profit" or 4) pay a fee-in-lieu.
Tanger decided to pay a fee-in-lieu of over $950,000 to the Peace House, which provides transitional housing to victims of domestic violence. Except, in Tanger’s application process, they were the ones that decided the funds would go to Peace House. The Council had some issues with this.
"I just don’t ever want to be in the position of having to choose one non-profit over another or having the developer choose," said Council member Claudia McMullin at Wednesday’s meeting.
Dave Thomas, the county’s chief civil deputy attorney, came up with a flow chart that lists the four options listed above that a developer has when providing affordable housing but also came up with two options when a fee-in-lieu is paid.
If the developer decides to donate the fees-in-lieu to the county, the manager decides where those funds go. If the developer wishes to donate the funds directly to a housing non-profit, it must be approved by the proper "land use authority," which, depending on the application, could be either the County Council, the county manager or the planning commission.
Jasper said he does not feel comfortable making a decision of which housing non-profit fees-in-lieu go to and that would defer to the County Council or planning commission. In the Snyderville Basin Development Code, the following non-profits are given as "illustrative" examples, even though a "community-based housing non-profit" is not defined:
"When Council talked about it, it seemed that these were the [only] groups that were specified," Jasper said. "The types of [non-profits] we should be [supporting] makes more sense to me than specific groups."
Council member Kim Carson said she thinks the county should be conducting needs assessments to determine whether affordable housing is the community’s greatest need or if it is something else.
"Right now, the biggest need could be in the area of mortgage assistance, but we don’t have any way of knowing that or evaluating that," Carson said. "I would like to see [a process] a little more structured."
McMullin said she would like to see non-profits apply for affordable housing funds and establish what they would do with the money.
Council Chair Chris Robinson said that, aside from these concerns, the payment of a fee-in-lieu should have a great impact.
"We don’t want the fee-in-lieu to be the easy way out," Robinson said. "We want to have it in balance with the cost to provide the housing."