Housing group eyes Old Town | ParkRecord.com

Housing group eyes Old Town

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Habitat for Humanity wants to build a small work force housing project in upper Old Town, the second idea to build in the neighborhood in recent weeks.

The Park City Council Thursday night indicated it would consider donating land at 154 Marsac Ave. for the project, but the elected officials and Habitat leaders are not ready to complete the deal.

Habitat says it could build up to four units, probably in two duplexes, depending on government decisions about whether the land includes a portion of Marsac Avenue that is on historic road maps but not built.

"I guess we’re a go. Let’s move forward," Mayor Dana Williams told Habitat officials.

The Thursday discussion starts what will probably be a months-long effort to build the housing. Habitat must now return to City Hall for a series of approvals before work can start.

The government must review the designs of the project against Old Town’s strict rules and must decide whether to allow Habitat to build on what has been deemed to be a steep slope. The Planning Commission, meanwhile, will consider the plans. Planning Commission reviews typically involve a public hearing.

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Habitat has not submitted formal applications.

Julie Bernhard, the executive director of the local Habitat chapter, is pleased with the City Council’s support. She says work force housing makes a community better.

"Affordable housing is a necessary ingredient of a lively and competitive community," she says in a prepared statement. "It helps reduce poverty by creating the opportunity for participants to hold steady jobs, by encouraging self-reliance and by providing access to medical, education, transportation and community services."

Under Habitat’s programs, the group provides materials and the family selected to move in will assist with the construction. Bernhard says Habitat has not priced the units. The group selects buyers based on whether their current home is suitable, their ability to help build the new housing and their ability to pay the mortgage.

Bernhard says she has been in talks with City Hall since July.

"Our teachers, firemen, police officers and others should be able to live where they work," she says in the prepared statement.

Bernhard wants construction to start in June 2008, with the project completed by November.

The site is situated near the spot where Talisker-controlled United Park City Mines wants to build a 20-unit work force-housing project to count toward its Empire Pass-related requirement.

Neighbors who live on Marsac Avenue frequently worry about traffic, but it is unclear whether they will react to the two work force housing projects. Both require hearings, when neighbors would most likely approach City Hall with support or opposition.

Work force housing supporters often say Park City is better off if people of varying economic means can afford to buy in Park City’s resort-driven housing market, the most expensive in the state. Work force housing, they say, provides diversity in the community.