Affordable housing belongs at the top of city and county agendas
The Park Record editorial, Dec. 17-20,2016
The people who put the glitz in all of those glitzy headlines about Park City are, to a large extent, the thousands of employees — both year round and seasonal — who work behind the scenes.
They are the ones who tune skis overnight, shovel driveways before dawn, brew coffee before the lifts open, groom the slopes, patrol the mountain and mix those cleverly named après ski cocktails. They are the shuttle drivers, lodging managers, housekeepers, valets, prep cooks and dishwashers who have helped to put Park City on a multitude of top-10 lists for skiing, eating, outdoor recreation and small town-ambiance.
In short, their mission is to do anything it takes to make a family’s vacation dreams come true. But when those employees head home — often a long, out-of-town commute — there is another driveway to shovel, kids to cook for, laundry to be done.
The irony is this: Park City’s great workforce has helped the local tourism industry soar, which has spurred resort expansions and countless new projects, which in turn necessitate more employees. The net effect is a supercharged economy with a dearth of affordable housing.
This revelation comes as no surprise for local business owners who are engaged in a constant scramble to keep year-round positions filled and to expand their ranks as seasonal business ebbs and flows.
The issue has also floated to the top of the agenda for both the Park City and Summit County Councils, where officials are looking for ways to facilitate developments that include affordable housing. The under-construction project known as Park City Heights, located south of the Park City Film Studio is one tangible result of that effort. But many more units are needed to keep pace with the area’s growing appetite for workers.
Some say the disparity between low-to-average wage earners and the area’s high end housing market will resolve itself through the natural supply-and-demand process. But it hasn’t. Instead, employers have cast their hiring nets further out of town, which has had disastrous effects on the two main thoroughfares into and out of the city.
City and county officials, with strong commitments from the employers who will benefit, must redouble their efforts to facilitate affordable housing including a wide range of offerings from multi-unit apartments for seasonal workers to starter homes for young families and professionals.
The quality of Park City’s workforce is dependent on the quality of life we have to offer and housing is arguably the most significant factor in that equation. If we want reliable employees who are vested in the success of the community, we need to ensure they are able to live here.
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