Affordable housing answers may be as close as your extra bedroom
December 13, 2005
Mountainland Community Housing recently surveyed the Park City area’s inventory of affordable housing for seasonal employees and determined the community is more than 100 units short of meeting demand. That sent government officials scrambling to find sites and architects to the drawing boards to come up with new housing projects.
But there may be a far simpler answer to alleviate at least a portion of the ski season housing crunch and it might not need a single brick or steel beam.
Scattered among almost every neighborhood in Park City are empty bedrooms abandoned by college-bound teens and mother-in-law units built to accommodate lengthy visits from the extended family that sit empty most of the year. In many cases, they would make perfect lodging for one or more of the college-age foreign workers who have landed jobs with the ski areas but have yet to find affordable housing.
Many of these young ambitious employees arrived in Park City sight unseen and with limited language skills. They embarked on an adventure in hopes of learning about our country and improving their language skills but, unfortunately, some are not getting the welcome they had hoped for. They have been forced to bunk in shabby, overcrowded apartments that, understandably, draw complaints from the surrounding property owners and they are working two to three jobs to try and make ends meet.
Imagine yourself, or one of your children, in a similar situation. Most likely you would hope that they would meet a nice local family who would take them under their wing, feed them a home-cooked meal from time to time and provide a safety net in the unlikely event of some emergency.
Taking in a seasonal renter has the potential to offer mutual benefits. The reasoning is the same as it is regarding foreign exchange student programs. Both the student and the family are culturally enriched and often form relationships transcend international boundaries and last for years.
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Take your own personal housing inventory to determine whether there might be room in your home for a young adult from The Czech Republic or Brazil, for instance. Then check with your homeowners association to see what restrictions there are, if any, in renting out a room in your house. Many neighborhoods have rules prohibiting nightly rentals or changing a single-family home into a duplex. But in some cases a long-term rental in a house that continues to be occupied by the primary home owner is acceptable.
Making the best use of the housing that is already built is always preferable to forcing housing projects on neighborhoods that don’t want them. Recognizing that, the Park City Council should also do what it can to make sure its zoning regulations accommodate those who want to take in seasonal workers.