Affordable housing resolution gets council’s stamp of approval |

Affordable housing resolution gets council’s stamp of approval

The Park City Council Thursday adopted a more comprehensive version of its affordable housing guidelines, written by Phyllis Robinson, who directs the city’s affordable housing program.

Robinson says the new language "spells out the specifics" about how to implement the guidelines, plays up the need for affordable home ownership and noticeably plays down a developer’s choice to make payments in lieu of building their affordable-housing requirement.

"There were a lot of points that needed to be cleaned up and the new guidelines do a good job of that, but I think the best part of the resolution is it de-emphasizes the ‘in lieu of’ fees, which, traditionally, most developers opt for," said Mountainlands Community Housing Trust Executive Director Scott Loomis, who attended the meeting.

In the guidelines approved by the City Council this week, Robinson notes the ‘in lieu of’ payment per affordable unit built was raised from less than $60,000 per unit, to $86,616, to account for the rise in real estate prices and the administrative fee involved. If paid early, the developer will pay the current price; if paid at a later date, the fees will be adjusted biennially to account for the rising cost of real estate.

The affordable housing resolution is the result of several discussions beginning last December. The original guidelines were first adopted by the city in 1990, with the last significant revision to the standards adopted in 1999, according to Robinson.

The new ‘in lieu of’ payments are based on adjusted calculations for the current median income earnings for Summit County households. Using the Department of Workforce Services as a resource, Robinson calculated the median household income for the county at $42,000, based on 1.5 jobs per household. The typical annual earnings for a worker in the county for November 2005, was around $26,000, she said. Robinson then computed the price tag that a median income household could afford on a home up to 1,400 square feet: $142,487.

When Robinson searched for homes that the median household might be able to afford, she found an average home of that size in the Park City area was priced at $217,800. The new adjusted in lieu of payment, therefore, is based on the $75,313 gap, plus an $11,000 administrative fee.

Fees go directly to a fund designated for affordable-housing projects, Robinson explained.

Besides Loomis, the only person to testify during a public hearing was Mike Sweeney, former president of the Historic Main Street Business Association.

Sweeney supported the effort to provide Park City with more affordable housing, he said, but was concerned about a detail in the process for qualifying for the ‘in lieu of’ fee, which is partly based on the purpose of a proposed project. Different projects generate different amounts of employees per square foot, and thus their responsibility to the city’s affordable-housing inventory varies, he argued.

He challenged the idea that the amount of employees generated by a commercial outlet could be standardized, as outlined in the new resolution, given the unique storage-to-retail space ratio. A commercial retail space generates 3.3 employees per 1,000 net "leasable" square feet, according to the new affordable housing guidelines. He said that wasn’t necessarily true.

Robinson responded that the guidelines include a clause that allows an independent contractor to review the employee generation of a project.

During the meeting, Mayor Dana Williams noted that ‘in lieu of’ fees were not simply a "condition of approval," but the City Council and Planning Commission’s decision.

"We’re trying to steer [developers] away from the ‘in lieu of’ fees because we’d rather they build projects," Williams said.

In the next five years, Robinson projects the city will have an additional demand of more than 300 units of affordable housing, on top of a pent-up demand for owner-occupied and affordable rental housing. Current projects are obligated to build 109 affordable housing units. The demand of work-force housing from 2005 to 2010 is 561 units.

While City Hall has maintained it is not interested in becoming a developer of affordable housing, Robinson says it would like to be involved.

"The city wants to put tools in place and help to coordinate the [affordable housing] efforts," she said. "It’s not about sitting back and waiting, but making sure we get what we need to be more proactive about affordable housing."

Robinson plans to approach Summit County with similar guidelines she presented to the city, for the entire county, on May 9.

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