Summit County considers purchasing affordable housing units
Summit County plans to move forward with the purchase of at least one workforce or otherwise affordable unit in Bear Hollow subdivision off S.R. 224, with the option to purchase several more in the future.
Jeff Jones, the county’s economic development and housing director, approached Summit County Councilors on Wednesday about the possibility of retaining a two-bedroom unit in the Bear Claw Condominiums for $289,033. The county retains the first right of refusal on all deed-restricted properties in the Bear Hollow subdivision, something that allows leaders to ensure the units remain in the affordable pool.
“It’s a nice property and after I went out and toured it I thought it might make a nice addition if we keep it as affordable housing in Summit County,” Jones said at the meeting. “We could keep the unit and use it for affordable housing or housing for county staff if we felt like we had a need. Recruiting people is becoming more challenging and we thought this was an opportunity that we didn’t want to let go by.”
Affordable housing remains one of the county’s most pressing issues in the predominately resort-driven market. The County Council vowed to begin significantly decreasing the deficit in affordable housing as a part of its strategic goals for 2018. Elected leaders have discussed the need to provide more attainable housing for the workforce in the county for several years.
There are approximately 60 deed-restricted units within the Bear Hollow development, ranging in price from about $178,000 to $463,817, with 50 percent or more non-owner occupied. Some of the units are being offered as rentals and others for nightly rentals, which is not prohibited.
Jones said the county has a new contract with Mountainlands Community Housing Trust that focuses on monitoring deed-restricted properties, including Bear Hollow. He reached out to the renters and owners to evaluate their compliance with the county’s deed-restricted requirements and many owners are interested in selling their units.
“The price of these units have escalated and that, combined with HOA (homeowners association) fees, they are starting to teeter on that edge where they are no longer affordable,” he said. “Particularly the ones where the HOA fees are more than $500.”
The market value for the units range between $400,000 and $500,000 for about 900 square feet up to $700,000 for a three bedroom, Jones said.
Staffers recommended the County Council consider authorizing County Manager Tom Fisher to exercise the right of first refusal and work with Mountainlands Community Housing Trust to acquire the units and use the county’s fees developers have paid instead of building affordable housing to reduce the resale price, according to a report. The other option available was to resell the units at market value. County Council member Chris Robinson supported reselling the units and reinvesting the money in building affordable housing in another location.
Fisher has the authority to make purchases on behalf of the county. However, the discussion was intended for receiving the consent of the elected officials.
The County Council ultimately asked Fisher to purchase the one unit that is currently available and exploring prices for the other units. County Council members discussed 80 percent of the area median income, as well as 100 percent of the area median income.
“We want to see those dollars maximized and see as many of those get purchased as possible,” County Council Chair Kim Carson said in an interview. “We may have to buy down some of the value to make it affordable depending on what the market rate is and what we will do after we purchase.”
Carson said the elected officials want to ensure the deed restrictions are crafted in a way to keep the units “truly” affordable.
“We want to redo those and update those deed restrictions and will resell the units based on waterfalls provisions similar to what we have done on other affordable housing projects in the county, with the first priority given to local employees,” she said. “If they look like they can’t be sold as affordable units then we will turn around and sell those at market value and then use that money to reinvest into the program.”
Only a few units a year will likely be available in the beginning as the county reviews the deed restrictions on each unit to ensure renters are being charged the appropriate rate.
“If they are not, we will start enforcing that better and some may decide it’s not worth it to them anymore and sell,” Carson said. “But, we definitely gave the thumbs up to move forward with the program and have Mountainlands support us in that program. We will be putting together some type of agreement with them on purchasing the available unit.”
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.