Letters to the editor
From our side of the fence Zane Woolstenhume,
President, Board of Trustees
Mountainlands Community Housing Trust
Mountainlands Community Housing Trust (MCHT) has been in the news recently due to its request for a $250,000 bridge loan from Park City Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to assist with completion of The Line Condominiums affordable-housing project on Deer Valley Drive. Despite the fact that the project has exceeded its original budget and timeline, 22 condominiums will shortly be sold to pre-approved buyers at approximately one-half the cost of comparable nearby properties.
MCHT is a small nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation begun in 1995 with the mission to create and preserve affordable housing. Contrary to its name, there is no trust fund behind this nonprofit. Funding for projects comes from state and federal programs and financial institutions. During the last four years, MCHT, using various programs and acting as developer, has completed 46 single-family homes, has 41 homes under construction, and will begin an additional 22 single-family homes within the next 60 days. All of these projects, with the exception of The Line Condominiums, have been successfully completed in a timely manner and within budget.
In addition, MCHT has purchased and renovated 66 apartment units in Park City and Kamas, each of which will be preserved as affordable forever.
So with very limited resources, MCHT has been a remarkable force in providing affordable housing in Summit County, and through its programs has returned millions of your federal and state tax dollars to our county.
Now to the much-maligned condominium project. Is this project a model affordable housing project? Certainly not. Affordable housing, by its very nature requires a streamlined process. This project has proved to be construction’s "perfect storm" including 13 months to get a building permit, a stop work order, changes in construction supervisors, loss of the structural engineer of record, changes in subcontractors, difficulty obtaining construction material worsened by Hurricane Katrina, and a host of other issues. Once the project’s momentum was lost, it was never regained.
To taxpayers concerned about their city’s tax dollars, the loans MCHT has requested from PCMC come from a special fund created from in-lieu fees paid by for-profit developers who paid fees rather than building to meet their affordable housing requirements. MCHT is the only entity that has applied for these fees in the last few years, and any loan granted to MCHT will be paid back with interest. All of The Line units have been pre-sold with a waiting list of potential buyers.
It has been suggested that MCHT should have hired a private developer (who charges 15 to 25 percent fees in contrast to MCHT’s three to five percent). For example, a new private development in Park City announced its affordable housing obligation would be fulfilled by building one-bedroom condos beginning at $140,000, while MCHT is offering condos of the same size for $102,000, despite all the difficulties on the project. In addition, MCHT has obtained grants of three to five percent for each purchaser with deferrals of approximately 15 percent of the purchase price for several buyers. This lower cost is a result of MCHT creating homes for people, not for profit.
The board of directors and hard-working staff of MCHT deeply regret the delay in providing homes to deserving local families. We appreciate the support from our lending institutions for standing by us during this long process. Also, a big "thank you" to PCMC for its financial support. Have lessons been learned? Oh, yes. Are they as simple as hiring private developers or not providing loans to finish the project? Not from our side of the construction fence.
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