Not even a nurse can afford Park City | ParkRecord.com

Not even a nurse can afford Park City

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Work force housing advocates have launched a campaign meant to describe the difficulties people have finding places to live in Park City, an effort to keep in the public consciousness a dilemma that continues to challenge government officials and the activists.

The campaign is especially unusual because it highlights the troubles of a professional trying to live in Park City. Many people typically relate work force housing, sometimes called affordable housing, with laborers like resort and restaurant workers. But the latest campaign features somebody who is supposed to be a nurse having trouble finding a place to live in Park City.

"She can save your life, but she can’t live next door," the advertisement says, showing a picture of a woman and telling a brief story about her.

A consortium of the private sector, not-for-profit organizations and City Hall put the campaign together, which urges people to "Live. Work. Play." in Park City. The local government and others have long pushed for work force housing, and the campaign is the latest such effort to promote the idea.

"Everyone’s danced around this topic for so long," says Julie Bernhard, a member of a Park City Board of Realtors affordable-housing committee who was involved in the campaign.

She says the campaign is a bid to "reduce the fear of affordable housing coming into neighborhoods."

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There has long been resistance from neighbors when a work force project is proposed for nearby. Some of the projects have been bitterly contested, including one in the Chatham Hills neighborhood. More recently, City Hall encountered opposition as it sought the approvals needed to build a work force project close to the Park Avenue police station.

Neighbors typically worry about more traffic, the loss of open space and development nearby. Sometimes they are also concerned about work force projects depressing the value of surrounding real estate.

The supporters, though, counter Park City will be a better community if more rank-and-file workers are able to live locally. They say Park City will be more diverse and commuter traffic will be cut, among other benefits that they see.

Bernhard says more than 200 small posters featuring the image of the nurse have been printed. They are being distributed, with approximately half of them having been given out by late in March. She says she hopes the campaign will continue with other professions highlighted in future advertisements.

"Our police officers, our teachers, our medical professionals can’t even afford to live here," Bernhard says, adding, "If they are able to live and play in Park City, they’ll continue to live here."

Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, a not-for-profit group based in Park City, is among the organizations involved in the campaign. Scott Loomis, the executive director of Mountainlands, says it is similar to others across the country. He expects the campaign will run through the late spring.

He talks about the statements in the advertisement, saying workers like police officers, firefighters, paramedics and teachers have difficulty affording Park City’s housing market.

"These are the types of people who need affordable housing. These are the types of people in affordable housing," Loomis says, estimating there could be 1,000 work force housing units built in Park City and surrounding Summit County within a decade.

Loomis, though, says some people have a "misconception of what it really is." A majority, though, support work force housing, he says.

The Main Street Deli posted one of the signs with the nurse story in its front window, a highly visible spot on the popular street. Inside, deli owner Barb Lindbloom says the deli attracts an assortment of people, making it a smart spot to promote work force housing.

"We get all kinds of people here. We like to have all kinds of people in here. It makes for a more interesting life," Lindbloom says, talking about work force housing’s role in boosting diversity.

Meanwhile, Lindbloom says the work force housing stock has helped her business over the years. Some of the people who staff the deli could benefit, she says.

"Those people will shop on Main Street and eat at the deli," she says. "They may even work at the deli."

Who is Nancy the nurse?

A woman described as a local nurse in an advertising campaign for work force housing does not exist, one of the people involved in the campaign acknowledges.

The campaign, organized by a consortium of private-sector businesses, not-for-profit organizations and City Hall, describes a woman named Nancy. According to the advertisement, she is a nurse who commutes from Salt Lake City to Park City.

"She loves her job and the people she serves. But Nancy may need to leave her job because she can’t find affordable housing closer to work," the advertisement says, next to a picture of a woman wearing hospital scrubs and a stethoscope around her neck.

Julie Bernhard, a member of a Park City Board of Realtors affordable-housing committee who was involved in the campaign, acknowledges that the picture of the woman is a stock image. Bernhard says she wrote the text describing a person to accompany the image.