Affordable-housing debate continues
July 8, 2008
Yelena Bates was provided a home free of charge when she was raised in communist Russia.
"It’s easy to lie down when the government will take care of me," the Highland Estates woman said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "But you have to be competitive, that’s good and what I like about America."
As Summit County officials debate a plan that could allow larger, more lucrative subdivisions for builders who dot projects with affordable homes, Bates said she is not expecting government handouts.
"It’s my responsibility to make more money. I’m not handicapped. I’m not 75 years old," Bates said. "I understand that government has somebody else to take care of."
She tried recently to buy a home at Bear Hollow Village after renting for four years, but couldn’t afford the $1,100 mortgage on the $146,000 unit with her $25,000 salary.
"I would like to buy a condo, but I realized that it’s supposed to be like 30 percent of your income. I was supposed to pay 80 percent of my income," Bates said.
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The average hourly wage earned in western Summit County in 2005 was reportedly less than $9.
"You don’t really have income to live on," Bates said.
The county already has rules the require new projects have work force housing, which are similar to guidelines used by Sun Valley, Idaho, Cambridge, Mass. and Boulder, Colo.
But expensive land "coupled with very low densities in the Snyderville Basin would result in relatively few workforce housing units being built under this mandatory requirement," Summit County planner Kimber Gabryszak laments in a Planning Commission staff report.
Rules enacted last year require building roughly 20 percent of overall new development for people earning around 80 percent of the area median annual income of about $82,000.
But mandating affordable units with new projects only addresses future impacts, Gabryszak explained, adding that several hundred workforce homes are needed to fill the current housing deficit.
So Tuesday, the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission debated the next step. The meeting was scheduled to take place after The Park Record’s deadline.
A median-priced house in western Summit County last December sold for almost $1.3 million.
There are fewer than 600 work-force housing units in Snyderville, according to Gabryszak.
The Summit County Commission is poised to move forward this year with more aggressive legislation to create affordable housing.
The proposed incentives would allow builders to construct denser neighborhoods in exchange for constructing affordable units. But critics still fear the incentives could bring with them traffic, crime and undesirable neighbors.
By agreeing to provide about half the overall number of units in their subdivisions as work force housing, builders could substantially increase the value of their projects by obtaining more density.
"It likely will mean substantial increased density on any presently undeveloped land," ParkWest resident Art Brothers wrote in an e-mail forwarded to The Park Record Tuesday.
County government should stay out of the housing business, Bates replied.
"Government cannot regulate the situation we have here. It’s capitalism," she said. "I know I cannot afford it and it’s not really the county’s fault. This place is quite unique. It’s not like a regular place where many people can afford something."