Affordable housing suffers setback at Bear Hollow
Some Bear Hollow Village homeowners expecting to profit greatly from the sale of their properties shouldn’t plan to cash out any time soon.
As they pushed the Summit County Commission to lift restrictions that limit the selling prices for their homes, the government this week hunkered down in an attempt to preserve what affordable housing might remain near the base of the Utah Olympic Park.
Densities in Bear Hollow Village increased in the late 1990s when the developer agreed to restrict the selling prices of more than 60 units.
But while traditionally only buyers earning less than 80 percent of the area median income in Park City have qualified to purchase such deed-restricted property, Summit County planner Kimber Gabryszak says affordable units in Bear Hollow have likely sold to buyers out of state with incomes in excess of $64,000 because the county required no income restrictions.
"They’re not being sold to people they are intended to go to," Gabryszak added.
When asked Thursday who’s to blame for the oversight, Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer replied, "Everybody."
"Somebody wasn’t watching the register," Richer said, insisting he was not a commissioner at the time. "This is an example of an area where our hearts were in the right place, but there wasn’t the appropriate logistical follow through."
The County Commission, when the project was approved, left the responsibility for enforcing restrictions on affordable housing in Bear Hollow with the original developer, who eventually went bankrupt.
"Who wrote this document?" asked Bear Hollow Village resident Jody Lodrick about the deed restriction. "Who reviewed it from Summit County? Was there no review of this before it was written?"
Hamlet Homes has since purchased Bear Hollow Village and construction in the neighborhood is underway.
"The county certainly acknowledges that there were problems and we certainly acknowledge that the 1999 deed restriction was not sufficient and it’s not like we would do that today," Richer said.
However, following a heated discussion Wednesday with homeowners from Bear Hollow, the County Commission is mulling whether to abandon the deed restriction and clear the way for some to sell their units at what Richer describes as a "windfall."
"We do remain committed to affordable housing," he said, adding, "While we could argue that it may not be as bad as the homeowners say, no one would argue that it’s perfect."
While Richer insists no issues have arisen with restrictions on 16 affordable units in the development, Bear Hollow resident Peter Kemp claims no affordable housing exists in his neighborhood.
"The deed restriction that currently exists is accomplishing nothing," Kemp said.
Recent attempts made by homeowners in Bear Hollow to sell their affordable units for more than the allowed prices resulted in a closing on a condominium last July, Lodrick said.
"It’s still happening," he said. "There hasn’t been enforcement of gross violations."
Few neighbors who own restricted affordable housing in Bear Hollow earn less than 80 percent of the area median income and many don’t even reside in Summit County, the homeowners insist.
"Most of which are owned by out-of-state owners who use them for cheap ski houses," Kemp explained. "They’re not affordable housing, they’re not, so quit saying that they are."
Many owners of affordable housing in Bear Hollow rejected an offer from the County Commission last July that included either accepting a stricter deed restriction in exchange for Summit County purchasing their homes or leaving the current deed restriction in place.
"The objective of both the staff and the county commissioners when we offered the options to the homeowners was to try and help the problem, and we’re still of that mindset," Richer said. "The county’s objective is to preserve the 46 units of Bear Hollow affordable housing where there are problems."
Homeowners could have also opted to pay $150 per square foot to buy out of the deed restrictions on their properties.
"For me, it’s $70,000 upside. The buy-out rate would have been $200,000," Kemp said, adding that the county must offer a "reasonable" way for the deed restrictions to be eliminated. "At $150 a foot my fee in lieu right now is three times the increase in market rate."
Planning Department staff on Wednesday shared an idea for a new concept, dubbed the Community Planning Lab, with the Summit County Council. The initiative strives to engage people who want to better understand the processes that drive executive decisions.
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