Park City panel recommends greatly expanding housing mandate
A Blue Ribbon Housing Commission seated by Park City leaders has issued a report with a recommendation that all developers should "pay something towards our affordable housing goals," a move that, if made into policy, would greatly expand the number of projects that would have a City Hall-mandated housing requirement.
Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council received the report at a recent meeting. The elected officials were not prepared to make detailed decisions about the set of recommendations presented by the Blue Ribbon Housing Commission. The City Council discussions will likely occur over time given the breadth of the recommendations.
The recommendation regarding the role of developers in affordable housing is the most striking in the report. Under City Hall’s current development rules, only large projects master-planned developments involving at least 10 residential units or 10,000 square feet or more of commercial area — are required to incorporate work force or otherwise affordable housing. Land annexations with associated development rights also must provide work force housing.
The recommendation that all developers should have a housing requirement would impact a slew of projects that are not currently covered by City Hall’s rules. The Blue Ribbon Housing Commission report lists commercial and residential developments, new construction, remodels, multi-unit projects and houses.
If the recommendation is made into a City Hall rule, a property owner building an addition to a house would be required to make a housing payment of some sort, as an example. The report did not provide details such as dollar figures.
It is not clear whether the elected officials will pursue the recommendation. If so, City Hall would draft a new rule and hold hearings prior to any City Council vote.
The Park City construction industry is on a tear as the city has enjoyed a post-recession development boom. Remodels and additions have been important segments of the industry as a result of there being a dwindling number of large development sites within the city limits for new projects. The thinking behind the recommendation is that developments generate the need for workers regardless of the size of the project.
"All construction impacts this goal," Meg Ryan, who was a member of the Blue Ribbon Housing Commission, said about housing in an interview. "So everyone should pay their equitable portion."
Ryan said the Blue Ribbon Housing Commission noted the increase in remodels and teardowns in Park City as members crafted the recommendation. There was a "fair-share attitude," she said about the recommendation.
The recommendation did not appear to immediately receive widespread publicity. If City Hall pursues a program like the one outlined, it would almost certainly draw attention from a range of interest groups. While housing advocates would likely support such a move, there could be resistance by developers and property owners worried about increased costs.
Park City leaders have long made housing a priority for City Hall, but there has been a renewed emphasis recently as Thomas and the City Council strive to reach a goal of adding 184 units of restricted housing by 2020.
Mayors and Park City Councilors over the years have embraced the programs, arguing that the community is better off if there is a broader spectrum of housing available. They say housing opportunities create additional socioeconomic diversity and cut commuter traffic, among other benefits.
Early programs were largely crafted to assist a work force that was otherwise priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate and rental markets. The efforts have expanded, though, to involve senior housing as well.
The Blue Ribbon Housing Commission report outlines other recommendations, including:
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Park City leaders next week plan to showcase a City Hall workforce or otherwise restricted housing development in Old Town, highlighting one of what is expected to be a series of significant municipal projects in coming years.