Mountainlands Community Housing Trust celebrates 25-year anniversary
When Scott Loomis joined Mountainlands Community Housing Trust in 2001, the organization was struggling to make payroll on an $180,000 budget for five part-time staff members.
It had been eight years since the nonprofit was launched to create, preserve and advocate for affordable housing in Summit and Wasatch counties. But, the organization was still trying to find its footing.
Several units were built on Daly Avenue, along with the Peace House shelter at an undisclosed location in Park City. In the years following, the organization began to gain momentum as the local governments began to push the need for affordable housing.
Seventeen years later, Mountainlands Community Housing Trust is thriving on an operating budget of more than $1 million, employing a staff of nine, including Loomis, the executive director.
“I think I envisioned this happening someday, but it’s actually here and happening,” he said. “I feel good about it because not only is the organization sound financially, we have a strong and qualified staff of people that will be my successors someday.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust. The organization has played a role in the construction of more than 200 homes in that time and has taken ownership of 281 deed-restricted apartments. Upcoming projects are expected to produce more than 200 additional deed-restricted units.
Throughout the years, Loomis said, the organization has stayed true to its original mission of advocating for affordable housing. He added, “We truly are a developer because we develop for sale and for rent housing, while managing the assets we create, too.”
“We have had opportunities where we could have gone beyond the borders of Summit and Wasatch counties, but this is our community and it’s what we know,” he said. “We have helped thousands of families find temporary and seasonal housing.”
Bob Richer, chair of the Mountainlands Community Housing Trust board and namesake for one of the organization’s apartment complexes, said the nonprofit has been successful in giving keys to people to put in doors that open to actual units.
“From my perspective as someone who moved into the area in 1980, we have been talking about affordable housing for a long, long time,” he said. “What I think Mountainlands has been able to do is do more than talk about affordable housing. We have been able to build a number of units in Summit and Wasatch counties.”
Richer said affordable housing is critical to maintain a community that isn’t just comprised of second homes. He added, “It’s very difficult without great wealth to buy into the market in Park City.”
“To maintain the vibrancy of our community, we need to continue to welcome younger people to live and work here,” he said.
But, the organization’s success has not come without a few challenges.
Loomis said the organization has unsuccessfully tried to build developments in Park City over the years, blaming past City Hall administrations. He said the biggest challenge in the county has been finding land that is entitled and affordable.
“For every project we get, there are probably 10 projects that never happen or we can’t get entitled or somehow gets shut down along the way for one reason or another,” he said. “It never stops.”
The organization experience similar roadblocks when it tried to build its first projects in Wasatch County, Loomis said. He added, “Everyone over there said they didn’t want Park City’s affordable housing over there.”
“But, we have gained their trust and we have built 76 apartments, 21 senior apartments and now have another project under construction,” he said.
While the organization has helped provide a number of deed-restricted units over the years, Loomis said the need will always be there as more than 1,000 new jobs are created a year in Summit County. He said the waiting period for housing is oftentimes more than a year.
“It’s not just a Summit or Wasatch County thing. It’s the whole state and whole country,” he said. “But, we continue working at it because there are so many great stories of teachers or artists finding housing or going through our transitional housing program. There are so many success stories and the people we see years later are so appreciative.
“I love coming to work every day, and when I said that at a staff lunch the other day they just beamed back at me and said they have the exact same feeling,” he added. “They know they are accomplishing something and doing something good for our community.”
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Councilor Glenn Wright estimated that the ability to provide renewable energy sources for county power will cost the average Summit County resident $0.70 per year above current costs.