Affordable housing solution begins with collaboration
For several years Summit County’s housing dilemma has challenged government officials and activists as they’ve struggled to come up with a solution to the shortage of affordable and workforce housing.
Nearly everyone agrees that the housing trends have failed to keep up with job growth and economic development, but who’s really responsible for fixing it? Two of the candidates who are seeking a spot on the Summit County Council say everyone is.
County Council member Tal Adair, who serves as the county’s Republican Party chair, and Summit County Democratic Party Chair Glenn Wright agree that affordable housing will be a critical platform issue for November’s election.
In an interview with The Park Record, Adair said the housing shortage is a “critical, regional problem” that contributes to other issues, such as traffic. Adair, who is 52 years old and lives in Francis, is hoping to retain his seat on the County Council. He was appointed to a one-year term to replace former councilor Dave Ure.
“It you look at the projections for Summit County, Park City and the Kamas Valley those are all going to continue to grow,” Adair said. “We are over 1,000 units short right now and as we continue to recruit business to come here we also have to work with them to provide housing for their employees.”
However, Adair cautioned government officials to be careful to not create any “undue burdens” on those companies.
“There is no perfect equation to come up, but we need to work more as far as collaborating,” Adair said. “It is a crisis. We have teachers who can’t afford to live in Summit County even though they are in two-income families. And in the Park City area it is getting worse.”
Adair suggested dorm-style living that the resorts could provide for seasonal workers. He also said affordable living communities need to be strategically placed along transit routes to encourage alternative modes of transportation.
“The County Council, including myself, is very much aware of the situation and we understand and we hear from the citizens,” he said. “We have to start working with all the municipalities and the mayors to help facilitate a solution.”
Wright, who is 68 years old and a Prospector resident, said Park City and Summit County could start by creating an advocacy organization to examine affordable housing as a critical need. Additionally, he said the resorts have a responsibility to the seasonal workers that they bring in just for the ski season.
“Both the city and the county have open space committees and open space is great, but it also takes land away from possible building for affordable housing,” Wright said. “I think we should have one that is not just isolated in the city and the county because this is a West Side issue and an East Side issue, if we can improve our transportation.”
Wright said the city and the county have “to step up and create policies” that align. He said the governments are not currently working in sync.
“There is the potential for affordable housing to be built, but it is not being built on a regular basis,” Wright said. “I think we have to streamline the development process so that it doesn’t take years to complete.
“I have talked to some people on the planning commissions and they say things could get approve fairly quickly if they are by the book,” he said. “But if you are constantly playing let’s make a deal that is what take longer periods of time and as the deals are made we have to make sure that the affordable housing is up front rather than the end of the deal.”
Wright said if affordable housing is not addressed as a critical issue for the community, it will affect transportation, employee recruitment and “it will really change the character of the community.”
“The people who built this community mostly came here as ski bums in the 1970s and 1980s,” he said. “If we don’t have a place for the next generation of people to come in here and live it won’t be the same community in a decade or two.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.