Elected officials delve into affordable housing need in the Snyderville Basin
Recent development application spurs debate
As the need for affordable housing remains a critical point among elected officials, the Summit County Council and Snyderville Basin Planning Commission on Tuesday delved into the matter once again to better understand the shortage and how to go about addressing it.
Planning commissioners joined the County Council for a more than two hour debate on the topic and to weigh the importance of integrating affordable units throughout a development.
The discussion was spurred by a recent application to amend the Silver Creek Village Center’s Development Agreement to remove the requirement that workforce housing units need to be dispersed throughout. The Silver Creek Village Center is approved for 1,290 residential units, including 330 affordable units, and 50,000 square feet of commercial space. It is located in the open space near the junction of Interstate 80 and U.S. 40.
The meeting was intended to provide planning commissioners with direction on how to review the Silver Creek Village Center application. The Planning Commission has held two public meetings on the topic.
Silver Creek Village Center’s development group is working with Mountainlands Community Housing Trust to build the required affordable housing units within the next several years rather than sporadically over the course of the development’s buildout.
“The primary public policy issue is one over integration,” Dave Thomas, Summit County’s chief civil deputy attorney, said. “There is an affordable housing provision in Silver Creek’s Development Agreement that talks about having workforce housing units integrated throughout the community. But, the question has arisen as to what is integration?”
In May, the County Council identified affordable housing as one of its strategic goals for 2017 and vowed to “facilitate efforts to significantly decrease our deficit in workforce housing in order to have more community members who work and live in our county.”
“Integration is important,” Roger Armstrong, County Councilor, said. “We acknowledge that. But, given that we have identified affordable housing as one of our critical strategic goals it seems to me that we try to strike that balance. We are at a substantial short fall and that will continue to increase.”
County Council members and planning commissioners wrestled with the term integration and how to define it, without ever really reaching a conclusion as to what it means. Some felt that spreading units throughout a development avoids isolation and creates a more blended community among lower-income families and others.
“Without a doubt, the community wants workforce housing,” said Planning Commission Chair Canice Harte. “They complimented the Discovery CORE project because affordable housing was integrated throughout the project. But, we need to define that. What we envision is a blend of units throughout the village. Generally speaking, we wanted people to feel like they were in a community and they weren’t going to be isolated.”
Others weighed the integration requirement as it relates to the Silver Creek Village Center against the possibility of having more than 200 units provided within the next several years.
“Everyone is aware what the need is in our community,” said Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust. “This has been a concern since the mid-2000s. The crisis we have had over the years continues to last.
“Why now? Why Mountainlands?” He added. “There are no other housing projects coming to our community except the units at Discovery CORE. There is really nothing on the horizon. We won’t touch this problem unless we do something aggressive and big. Otherwise, it will be five-to-15 years before affordable units are built.”
The Silver Creek Village Center application is scheduled to be in front of the Planning Commission once again later this month.
“Silver Creek won’t solve our affordable housing problems,” Chris Robinson, County Council chair, said. “I don’t think we are being driven by the financing. I think we are being driven by what we need and I think we need more rentals at a lower area median income.”
To view the staff report prepared in anticipation of this meeting, go to this website.
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