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City hall addresses affordable housing for workforce

ANNA BLOOM Of the Record staff

Park City is confronting its dwindling affordable housing inventory head-on, through its own 2005 affordable housing assessment and because it cannot avoid it: this year, as seasonal workers arrive, the town’s supply appears to have reached its tipping point. Mountainlands Community Housing Trust housing specialist Nicole Butolph reports the last two Bad Ass Coffee Roommate Roundups have attracted 20 to 30 room-seekers — a record number for this time in the season.

"I know we do this every year, but I have to say this year is extremely difficult, to the point where I no longer have any answers for folks and it’s just barely December," she said in an e-mail early this week. In Butolph’s opinion the problem is twofold: property managers aren’t interested in short-term leases, and resorts aren’t equipping incoming workers with enough housing information. "There are a lot of places that want a year lease this year and they are not budging. I have also heard complaints from people coming in to work for a certain resort that, when the resort recruited them, [the resort] made it sound like housing was no big deal to find," she said. It seems Park City’s lower-income earners are suffering when it comes to housing, in part, because affordable housing ownership options are unavailable to even moderate-income households. Those Park City households with a combined income of $40,000 to $70,000 either choose to move or rent, according to Affordable Housing Director Phyllis Robinson, further cramping an already stressed affordable housing market. At Park City Council’s work session Thursday, Robinson presented city staff’s 2005 housing needs assessment, to give the city a more needs-based insight into the affordable housing dilemma. According to the assessment, if a household spends in excess of 30 percent of their income for housing costs, they are considered to be "cost burdened." If a household consumes more than 35 percent of household income, the household is defined as "extremely cost burdened." The renter household demand for Park City’s extremely cost burdened is 153 households strong 39 percent of renters, according to the city’s calculations. The city finds the demand for deed-restricted homeownership housing among households with incomes between $35,000 and $50,000 is 194 units. An equal demand exists among renter households with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000, the report said. The city estimates the demand for affordable housing in the next five years will be 561 units, which factors in the projected 2010 increase in resort-worker demand (323 workers), and subtracts affordable housing projects already online as part of developer agreements (Flagstaff Annexation, Deer Crest Master Plan, Union Square MPD, Silver Star). Yet "the numbers really just give us a ballpark figure," Robinson claims. "But it does give us a reasonable projection of a housing demand that we can deal with, so that we can begin to construct a resolution." The figures are based on the assumption that 34 percent of Park City’s workforce will continue to live in town and that the town will reach a population of 9,752 by 2010. The study measures households by average wage earners per household (1.5) and average members per household (a little less than 2.5). The study finds that most Park City wage earners are in the leisure and hospitality industry (more than 27 percent) with average incomes of $19,485, a figure 25 percent below Summit County’s average wage income in 2003. At the meeting, councilman Jim Hier said he could not see building many more new affordable housing units within city limits.

"I’m not saying we won’t build some units, it’s just I have a hard time seeing us developing too much there’s no room," he explained. "Instead of the city becoming a builder, I see it becoming more of a financial aid."

Hier suggested that the city begin to look outside its limits to construct affordable housing units and encourage other developers to do the same.

But Mayor Dana Williams was concerned about the reaction of other Summit County areas.

"For us to come up with something beyond our borders, that could cause us some consternation [from our neighbors]," he said.

Williams agreed there was a strain on the 344 affordable units provided by the city, but that " it’s not just the responsibility of government. We need to talk to employers." The city’s assessment anticipated both council members’ recommendations. Robinson is already working on a similar assessment survey with Summit County and hopes to pass an affordable housing resolution that agrees with Park City’s, she says, to develop a regional housing approach. In the report, there are several recommendations for government financial assistance programs such as a mortgage assistance program. Promoting employer assisted housing is also mentioned as a recommendation in the assessment, notes Robinson. However, of the 53 businesses that completed this year’s Employer Housing Survey, only 64 percent were Park City businesses and only one ski area responded. The Canyons Resort still has 267 affordable housing units it needs to build and Park City Mountain Resort is responsible for developing housing for 80 employees under its Development Agreement, Robinson said, and though Deer Valley Resort has already met its 112-unit requirement as part the Deer Valley Master Plan, and currently provides 70 units expressly for its employees, the town still comes up short when it comes to housing its core sector leisure and hospitality workers. "One of the concerns is how to get the business community engaged [in affordable housing] in a more meaningful way," she said. "Every year, we’ve always had a lot of people coming in with no housing&Folks need much more assistance." Park City has also launched a community housing survey, which can be accessed online at http://www.parkcity.org. Click on "Community Housing Survey."


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