Park City and Summit County officials size up housing market
While elected leaders continuously vow to aggressively address the need for more affordable housing within the community, Mountainlands Community Housing Trust led Summit County and Park City officials on a tour this week of the deed-restricted housing the organization has already produced or expects to be completed in 2018.
The tour provided officials with a unique opportunity to see firsthand the homes and apartments that have been constructed in Summit and Wasatch counties since the early 2000s. Mountainlands Community Housing Trust is a nonprofit organization advocating for affordable housing in Summit and Wasatch counties through various housing programs.
A visit to the various neighborhoods and apartment complexes that were built as affordable or otherwise restricted units is held a few times a year to allow the “people who can do something about it an idea of what can be accomplished just by a little nonprofit,” according to Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust.
“We wanted them to hear some of the struggles we deal with,” he said. “Sadly, there is this misconception that we don’t have affordable housing or that we don’t need it.”
As Loomis led officials on the three-hour tour, he discussed the hurdles the organization has had to clear to buy or construct the homes and apartments.
“When they (officials) see the affordable housing, hopefully, they see that it can be done,” he said. “But, they also need to understand that it is very difficult and challenging to deal with different jurisdictions, neighbors and attitudes. We are dealing with a NIMBY situation and a lot of people oppose this.”
The need for affordable housing remains a critical point among elected officials in both Park City and Summit County. Summit County’s housing shortage has challenged government officials and activists as they’ve struggled to come up with a solution to provide more units as workers and professionals continue to be edged out of the community’s real estate market.
Park City’s government made strides recently in combating the shortage when it built eight deed-restricted houses at 1450-1460 Park Ave. and acquired the 11-unit Central Park Condominiums. City leaders have set a goal of adding 800 units to the restricted housing stock by 2026.
The County Council identified affordable or otherwise workforce housing as a strategic goal two years in a row. The county has said it is committed to significantly decreasing the deficit.
As part of its efforts, the county plans to adopt a housing needs assessment for the Snyderville Basin and Eastern Summit County, and prepare a nexus study to quantify the affordable housing demand that can be attributed to new residential or nonresidential development in the county.
Several projects that will be under construction this summer in the county are expected to produce affordable housing. The Canyons Village Management Association, for instance, is expected to start building housing for 1,100 employees.
Other projects that will produce affordable housing include Discovery Core, approved for the area just south of Kilby Road and the Weilenmann School of Discovery, and Silver Creek Village Center, a 240-acre residential and commercial town center slated for the southeast corner of the Interstate 80 and U.S. 40 interchange. Discovery Core will provide 97 units, with 30 earmarked as affordable. It has been already been approved.
Mountainlands Community Housing plans to begin building 95 affordable units within the Silver Creek Village Center. But, the organization is still working its way through the development and entitlement process.
“I think one of the things to take away from the tour is that these products integrate into the community really well,” said Summit County Manager Tom Fisher. “I think he (Loomis) is hearing from some elected officials that we would like to see more affordable housing, but there are not any changes being made to faciliate that product coming faster. It’s a mixed bag because we don’t have a consensus in the community that this is what we want to see happen.”
Loomis said there is no “silver bullet” that will effectively reduce the housing shortage. But, he said commitments from the local governments and residents will help. He said the stigma attached to the terms affordable or workforce housing often cause people to shun those who live in income-restricted units or complicate the building process.
“If they realize the benefits of having people live here, it is not a loss for them,” he said. “It is a gain for them and their property values and the entire community. Without government and service workers, teachers and hospital staffers, this isn’t going to be the community they want and expect.”
Loomis plans to lead more officials and elected leaders on another affordable housing tour later this month. Those who attended on Monday were: Summit County Manager Tom Fisher; Janna Young, deputy county manager; Summit County’s public information officer Krachel Greenwood; Jason Glidden, Park City Municipal’s housing director; Park City Municipal Planner Hannah Tyler; Park City Community Foundation members Katie Wright, Syd Reed, and Deanna Rhodes; Chris Neville, Park City candidate for Utah’s District 53 seat; and Steve Laurent and Pat Matheson of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust.
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.