Mile Post 2020: On the hunt for (affordable) housing
Story is the same in Summit County — there isn’t enough
It’s no secret why people want to live in the Park City area. Wide swaths of open space. Clean mountain air. The charm of a small town with the amenities of a larger community like world-class dining.
Oh, and the skiing is pretty good, too.
But as anyone who’s scanned real estate listings here can attest, the Park City lifestyle doesn’t come cheap. With a median sales price of nearly $2 million for single-family homes in 2019, the Park City area has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.
That’s no barrier, of course, for those who can pony up for multi-million-dollar homes (or for multi-million-dollar second homes). But it leaves many people, particularly those among Park City’s workforce, facing a quandary: how to afford housing here.
Judging by the data, that’s a question that continues to be vexing, despite significant effort by local government officials and housing advocates to solve the problem.
A study exploring anticipated housing needs in Summit County between 2019 and 2023 indicates that there is an annual shortfall of 198 owner-occupied affordable housing units for people who make between 50% and 120% of the area median income ($102,510 for a family of three). The demand is greatest in the Snyderville Basin, where 97 such units are needed.
The picture is similar in the rental market. According to the study, 231 additional rental units are needed annually for people who bring home between 30% and 120% of the area median income. Again, the shortfall is most pronounced in the Snyderville Basin, which requires 123 units to meet the need.
Notably, the demand for affordable housing isn’t isolated to western Summit County, with the East Side facing an annual shortfall of 33 owner-occupied homes and 44 rental units.
According to Jeff Jones, Summit County’s economic development director, the dearth of affordable housing doesn’t just impact those seeking a place to live. It has a number of ripple effects, perhaps most visibly in the traffic congestion that snarls Park City’s two entryways. A large chunk of the area’s work- force can’t afford to live here, putting more than 16,000 employees on the roads each day.
“When people are always complaining about growth, from my perspective what they’re always complaining about is automobiles,” Jones said. “It’s not so much that our actual population growth rate is off the charts as some people talk about. It’s really more a function of employment growth. Because we have to import so much labor, that becomes the challenge.”
Jones added that the coronavirus has only made the situation more bleak. While the pandemic has not directly affected the number of affordable units available in Summit County, the people who are most likely to need deed-restricted housing are the same people who have experienced the most financial turmoil due to the pandemic.
“It’s a really challenging environment under the best of circumstances,” Jones said. “A global pandemic (makes it worse).”
Of course, both City Hall and the County Courthouse have spent years trying to boost the affordable housing stock, with Park City focusing on developing its own workforce housing, with the eight-unit first phase of Woodside Park being completed last fall and a larger second phase in the works.
Other notable affordable housing developments that have gotten off the ground or have been completed in recent months include 330 units in Silver Creek Village, a 167-unit project at Canyons Village and a 56-unit athlete housing project at Utah Olympic Park.
But as the data shows, those projects aren’t enough to make Summit County’s affordable housing woes disappear, meaning many low- er- and middle-income Parkites and would-be Parkites can expect to continue asking how they can afford the Park City lifestyle.
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