Defining the affordable housing need in Summit County and Park City

Housing executive is encouraged by the elected leaders’ recent commitment to address it

Scott Loomis, executive director of the Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, says he is encouraged by the conversations that are taking place concerning affordable housing in Summit County and Park City.

In early December, the Summit County and Park City Councils reiterated their commitment to address the deficit together by forming a joint-affordable housing committee in 2017. The county is also currently considering purchasing 30 acres of land in Jeremy Ranch to meet some of the affordable housing and transportation needs.

“At the county and at the city level they are not just talking about it and doing studies, they are actually doing something,” Loomis said. “They recognize it is a critical need, which ties directly into transportation. It’s encouraging.

“I have been doing this for 15-plus years and it was very frustrating for so long because we were the only ones doing anything and very little was happening on a government level,” he said.

But, as more projects are outlined, it begs the question: how do you define affordable or workforce housing?

“In terms of what it is called, in 20017 we had a code revision in Snyderville Basin after we struggled with what to call it and named it workforce housing,” Loomis said. “Around the country there are different organizations who have come up with different terms, which basically means affordable housing. Some name it something different so it is not stigmatized.”

According to Loomis, state statute refers to it as moderate-income housing that is based on the area median income (AMI). To qualify, most programs target those earning 80 percent of the AMI or below. In Summit County, for-sale units have to priced for those earning 80 percent and below, Loomis said, adding that rental units target those with 60 percent or less of the median income.

“We need to try to target all groups, though, and we do really need to come up with projects and programs that target lower incomes,” Loomis said. “Another word that comes up often and is not in the code, but is used in the city and, hopefully, in the county it will be used more, is attainable housing. It varies at the top end, but it starts at 80 percent and above, depending on what the particular needs are for the community.”

As the county works on updating the Basin Development Code, Loomis said, they will explore more ways to protect attainable housing.

“When we talk about affordable housing, it’s not just market housing that may be affordable by someone’s determination,” Loomis said. “To me it means restricted owner-occupancy requirements, price limits and income limits.”

The county currently has 412 existing deed-restricted affordable housing units, with an additional 568 affordable/employee deed-restricted units planned, including 300 units at Silver Creek Village and 268 Canyons Village at Park City Mountain Resort.

However, a there is an estimated 875-unit deficit of affordable housing in the Basin, with an additional need for more than 250 affordable units from 2010 to 2015.

Park City Municipal has identified a goal of generating 800 new affordable housing units in order to ensure that 20 percent of the workforce can afford to live locally. The city has slightly more affordable housing units than the county, with 497 existing deed-restricted affordable housing units and nearly 90 more under construction or approved.

Loomis highlighted the completion of the Richer Place Apartments, which targets those earning below 50 percent of the AMI, and the reintroduction of the Discovery CORE project, a mixed affordable housing development slated for the open space west of Gorgoza Park, as steps toward addressing the deficit. The Basin Planning Commission is scheduled to consider and possibly approve the final site plan for the Discovery CORE project.

“It’s discouraging these things haven’t happened yet, but, it’s good to see that they are moving forward at least. But it will probably be 2018 before we see something built,” Loomis said. “As soon as the new, two multi-use zones are passed we could also see some significant opportunities for large-scale development in the Basin.”

Representatives with Mountain Lands Community Housing Trust are expected to meet with the Summit County Council later this month for further discussions on the affordable housing need.

Summit County

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