Worker housing: ‘amazing’
December 7, 2007
Jess Morrison’s workday might include blowing a whistle while he referees a soccer game, teaching students as a substitute or helping win a grant for the People’s Health Clinic, a medical center for the underprivileged.
The causes might be noble, but the pay is nominal, leaving Morrison, a 27-year-old who grew up in Park City, effectively unable to buy a house in the city, with its resort-driven real estate market.
Like a reported hundreds of others, Morrison, who rents in Jeremy Ranch, is intrigued by a developer’s offering of 10 restricted work force housing units at the Silver Star development, a sought-after location on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.
"It would be amazing. It would be a perfect opportunity," Morrison says, as he peruses the developer’s plans during one of two recent open houses about the work force housing at Silver Star.
During the two events, about 100 people shuffle through Silver Star, taking tours of the unfinished units and listening to presentations from the developer and Silver Star’s work force housing director. The crowds review the extensive paperwork they must fill out to be eligible, commenting about the detailed financial information Silver Star demands.
The hopeful homeowners represent a mix of ages and professions, and they have lived in the area for various lengths of time. Like Morrison, they say they offer something to the community but cannot afford to buy a house or condominium.
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"It’s absolutely dependent on something like this," Morrison says about the chances of him, or other young professionals, living in Park City, where he wants to raise a family and teach English at Park City High School. "I’d have to marry money to buy a home."
Firefighters, wearing their agency garb, are seen listening, parents attend to gather information for their kids and the questions from the crowd are detailed and engaged. The lead Silver Star developer, Rory Murphy, spends time with numerous people who plan to compete for the units. He patiently answers some of the same questions as each wave of people arrives.
"It’s indicative of the compelling need we have in this community for affordable housing," Murphy says in an interview after the two open houses, adding, "People want to live here that work here. They want the opportunity to own a home, to own a title on a residential unit. That is clearly the case."
A pricey market
Park City is Utah’s priciest housing market, and real estate in the city remains hot. Through the first three quarters of 2007, the median price on the 549 real estate transactions in Park City was $984,300, up 34 percent from the same period in 2006, according to the Park City Board of Realtors.
Work force housing, however, has long challenged Park City, with supporters saying it is best that people who work locally can afford to live near their employers and opponents, often neighbors, claiming that the projects could attract too much traffic and depress nearby property values. The Silver Star plans have not drawn public opposition, though. The work force housing units there are priced between $148,000 and $193,000.
Wendy Ashton, a 30-year-old who lives in the Galleria on Main Street and works at the Park City Museum, lauds Silver Star’s setting amid buildings and relics dating to the city’s silver-mining era. She plans to submit an application for a unit, saying she wants to keep living near her workplace. Ashton, though, is realistic about the competition.
"It’s really low. I’m willing to gamble on some things," she says about her chances of winning the right to purchase one. "I’m not going to tell my landlord I’m going to cancel my lease."
Since the availability of the work force housing was publicized in late November, there has been widespread interest. Restricted work force housing is difficult to obtain in the Park City area, and the prime location of Silver Star makes the 10 units available there even more desirable.
"It’s ski-in, ski-out housing. You’re not going to find that anywhere else," Murphy tells one of the groups.
The one-bedroom units, about 700 square feet each, are situated in a building near the center of Silver Star, about 100 feet from the development’s ski lift. The regularly priced units, which start at $1 million, are nearby. If the 10 units were priced for the open market, they would sell for at least $500,000, Murphy has said.
Not everyone is interested in the units as a place to live for a long time. A young man at one of the open houses asks if he could buy one and then keep it as his ski retreat once he earns more money and moves elsewhere. Murphy’s side nixes that sort of arrangement, saying a person must live in their unit if they buy one. If they want to move out, they must sell, with the sale price capped to keep it affordable to someone else who qualifies.
People have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 14, a Friday, to submit applications to buy a unit. Someone cannot earn more than $78,419 annually to qualify, and Silver Star requires people to provide detailed financial information on their application, including what they earn in salary, investments and child support, among other sources. They must reveal information about savings and checking accounts as well as details about their debt.
Through the end of the week, Silver Star’s work force housing coordinator reported distributing about 120 application packets. None had been turned in, but Silver Star does not expect a rush of applications until closer to the Dec. 14 deadline.
Murphy expects the units will be ready by March 2008, and he touts them as being upscale and "very, very nice." The materials and appliances will be fine, he says, and Silver Star says it will have workers on the site to fix problems should they occur.
Silver Star will pick people to buy the units by a random selection, planned on Jan. 12. The winners will have until March 14 to finalize their purchase.
Scott Marshall visits one of the open houses in place of his daughter, a 22-year-old second-grade teacher who was raised in Park City. She house-sits in the Aerie but wants to buy a place, her father says. He is unsure if she will qualify, but Marshall wants her name on the list anyway.
"It would mean a lot. She’s house-sitting. On a teacher’s salary, it’s tough to live in town," Marshall says. "You think of work force housing over in Prospector or out of town. To be on the ski resort, that’s attractive."
Silver for workers
The Silver Star developers are offering 10 work force housing units at the project, situated on the edge of Thaynes Canyon and on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort. The deadline for submitting papers for a chance to purchase one of the units is 5 p.m. Dec. 14. Some of the details:
The developers recommend turning in the applications in person, when people will get a receipt. If someone mails in the application, they should send it certified and with a return receipt.
People must submit detailed financial information with the applications. The developers require a person’s five most recent pay stubs, federal and state income-tax returns, and bank and stockbroker statements, among other information. They also must submit details about debt, such as car and college loans and credit cards.
The developers ask whether someone has declared bankruptcy within the last seven years, whether they have been foreclosed upon during that period and whether they are late or in default on loans, mortgages or other debt.
For more information, contact Rhoda Stauffer, who is directing the developers’ work force housing program. Her number is 658-1573 and her e-mail address is email@example.com.