Summit County Council nears October deadline for affordable housing law

Officials have until Oct. 1 to adopt a moderate-income housing plan or risk missing out on state funding

The Summit County Council will continue a discussion on Monday about approving moderate-income housing plans on the East Side and West Side required by a new controversial state law. Officials have until Oct. 1 to adopt the plan or miss out on state money crucial to funding transportation projects.
Park Record file photo

The Summit County Council has until the end of the month to adopt two moderate-income housing plans on the East and West sides as required by a new controversial state law – or risk missing out on state money crucial to funding transportation projects.

The County Council on Wednesday considered approving a moderate-income housing plan drafted by the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission into the West Side’s General Plan, but opted to continue the discussion until Monday amid concerns about the requirements of House Bill 462. 

The bill was passed during the last Legislative session to address affordable housing. However, the County Courthouse is concerned about a provision that specifically requires Summit County to include a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone, or HTRZ, at Kimball Junction as one of the strategies in its new moderate-income housing plan by Oct. 1.

The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission held three public hearings in July and August to craft the proposal. The panel forwarded a positive recommendation with 10 strategies, which focused on reaffirming policies already in place, to the County Council. However, it included a condition that the County Courthouse examine the HTRZ element for its legality and future impact.

Several possibilities include identifying possible changes to land use regulations that can be targeted for creating density for affordable housing, reviewing the current mixed-use zoning to determine possible areas of rezoning, amending land use regulations to allow for the development of single-room occupancy housing, and implementing incentives for moderate-income units in new developments. 

“There are the pieces that describe, in my mind, the kinds of issues that come with housing,” County Councilor Roger Armstrong said.

He said county officials must start teasing out how these solutions can address the community’s affordable housing crisis. Armstrong pointed to the need for balance between county resources and the private sector in finding places for essential workers to live. He also stressed the importance of ensuring the state’s suggested strategies actually work to solve the issues Summit County faces.

Armstrong questioned if satisfying one condition, such as providing housing for 500 people, is worth defeating other progress in the county, for example, the gridlock in traffic that could follow. He advocated for a more thoughtful process and suggested removing the HTRZ component from the moderate-income housing plan as the county hasn’t had time to develop it fully. 

The Utah Legislature mandates that Summit County include a plan for an HTRZ in the moderate-income housing plan by the October deadline, but officials don’t have to create the zone and file it with the state until Dec. 31. It’s also possible that county staffers will choose to draft the plan without implementing it.

County Council Chair Chris Robinson said it’s fine to include the strategy in the plan because officials can develop an HTRZ to their liking as affordable housing isn’t one-size-fits-all. The challenge, he said, is whether to put the component in when commanded to do so by the state and not act on it, or commit to the breach of leaving it out. 

If Summit County fails to create an HTRZ before the deadline, or if the moderate-income housing plan is rejected, the county may not be eligible for state money to fund important transportation projects. It is unclear what the penalty for noncompliance would be or how long it lasts.

Like Armstrong and Robinson, County Councilors Malena Stevens and Glenn Wright also agreed the plan needs more consideration. The County Council will pause the discussion until Monday, when they are scheduled to hold a public hearing about the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission’s moderate-income housing plan.

Summit County

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