Park City crowd overwhelmingly supports concept of tax hike to build affordable housing
Parkites over the years have overwhelmingly voted to increase property taxes to acquire open space.
And they have supported a tax hike to create safer pedestrian and bicyclist routes.
But City Hall has never asked whether taxes should be increased to support the municipal government’s housing efforts. That topic was broached at the second part of the Park City Future Summit, held recently at the Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library. The firm hired by City Hall to lead an exercise designed to craft a vision for the community asked a series of questions at the event, compiling the answers from the crowd as they were submitted.
One of the questions inquired whether someone would be “willing to pay additional property taxes to build affordable housing.” The most popular answer toward the end of the voting involved paying $250 per year, garnering 44% of the vote. The second most popular response, at 30%, was paying $500 annually while the third-ranked response, “Not a cent,” drew 26%. Approximately three-quarters of the people who answered the question were willing to pay more in property taxes to support City Hall’s housing efforts.
The question did not provide details about potential projects or locations. It also did not provide details about the way additional property taxes could be levied, perhaps through voter-authorized bonds or by increasing City Hall’s portion of the overall property-tax bill.
The question was posed at a time when City Hall is aggressively pursuing a housing program with the goal of adding 800 units of restricted housing deemed to be affordable or attainable by the end of 2026. Leaders see the housing program as integral to the City Hall work plan as Park City’s resort-driven real estate market, the most expensive in the state, has priced out many rank-and-file workers. Supporters of the program say the workforce or otherwise affordable housing ensures socioeconomic diversity and reduces commuter traffic.
City Hall plans a second phase of housing in the northern reaches of Old Town, known as Woodside Park, and plans to incorporate housing into projects along the Kearns Boulevard corridor as it pushes toward the 800-unit mark.
Mayor Andy Beerman said officials have not discussed a tax increase to fund housing projects. He said the question that was asked at the recent gathering was meant to measure the commitment of the crowd to housing. The mayor also said Park City councilors could explore funding strategies later and the municipal government has sufficient monies for the upcoming projects.
City Hall typically develops housing and covers much of the cost of the construction through the sales of units to people who qualify for the restricted projects. Any idea of additional property taxes would represent a radical change in the funding strategy.
The numbers regarding additional property taxes identified in the question at the second part of the Park City Future Summit were significantly higher than those attached to earlier City Hall ballot measures, such as those that funded a series of conservation deals.
The property-tax increase voters approved in 2018 to provide most of the funding for the $64 million acquisition of the Treasure acreage on a hillside overlooking Old Town in a conservation deal was for the owner of an $800,000 residence classified as a primary home priced well below even the $250 annual level outlined in the question, as an example. It was, by a wide margin, the most expensive of City Hall’s conservation acquisitions.
People at the Park City Future Summit, meanwhile, answered another housing-related question that inquired about “how supportive” someone was to living close to affordable housing. The most popular answer was next door, at 58%. Another 28% said either on their street or in their neighborhood while 11% said “elsewhere in Park City,” leaving approximately 3% saying “not at all.”
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.