Guest editorial: Mountain towns need unique housing solutions |

Guest editorial: Mountain towns need unique housing solutions

Eric Moxham, Van Novack, Bonnie Park, Jeff Revoy, Mitch Solomon and Fred Vallejo Friends for Responsible Development for Greater Park City (
Park Record guest editorial

Homebuyers and renters across the U.S. have seen prices surge and supply plummet. An October 2021 Pew Research Center survey showed that half of Americans (49%) say that affordable housing in their community is a major problem — but this issue pre-dated COVID-19.

There is no one silver bullet to resolve the housing crunch. Many cities adopt a primary strategy to increase supply through high-density developments containing a certain percentage of affordable housing. While this approach may work in Chicago or New York, it’s a flawed strategy for mountain towns that face unique challenges like limited space, infrastructure, and natural resources (most notably water), and a desire to maintain the appealing character of the community for residents and visitors. For our mountain resort community,  the strategy of supporting large developments with a small percentage of affordable units (like Dakota Pacific/Tech Park) does not address the workforce housing issue, which is our real need.

Friends for Responsible Development for Greater Park City (FRD-PC) wants to provide insight on how other mountain communities are tackling the workforce housing problem.

Reducing short-term rentals or fractional ownership

Short-term rentals and fractional ownership threaten our year-round housing stock. Placing limitations on these real estate assets is one avenue mountain towns like Aspen have pursued.

In June, Aspen City Council unanimously passed an ordinance limiting the number of city-issued short-term rental permits. Other ordinances restrict the number of days that units can be rented short-term and limit the number and location of short-term rentals based on zoning.

Similar battles are being fought on the homeownership front. In Summit County, San Francisco-based corporation Pacaso is attempting to establish fractional ownership in existing single-family neighborhoods. Many communities in California have issued regulations to ban Pacaso’s fractionalized ownership.  Similarly, Park City Council recently passed an ordinance to regulate fractional ownership and prohibit short-term rentals of co-owned properties.

Deed restrictions for local residents

Deed-restricted affordable housing typically relies on a residential unit operating under a regulatory agreement that limits its sales price or rent. However, deed restrictions can also be used to provide affordable homes specifically to local workers.

In 2017, the Town of Vail launched the Vail InDEED program to provide local workers the opportunity to find housing without competing with second-home buyers. The Vail Local Housing Authority used the town’s general fund to purchase deed restrictions from homeowners and developers to permanently limit occupancy of those units to people employed in Eagle County. Park City is poised to pilot its own deed restriction program, where existing owners or new buyers agree to deed restrict their properties to six-month minimum rentals in exchange for a one-time payment.

Public-private partnerships

Public-private partnerships between mountain town agencies and private developers allow local government to take an active role in addressing their workforce housing challenges while leveraging private-sector funding and development experience. While private partnerships can leverage property tax exemptions and state and federal tax credits to encourage more workforce housing units in developments, public-private partnerships entail local government contribution of land and/or cash to help make workforce housing projects economically pencil out.

Slopeside Village at Park City  constitutes a public-private partnership that will provide 1,100 workers affordable year-round housing with first priority given to Canyons Village employees. Likewise, Park City recently approved an infill workforce housing project called Homestake, where Park City is contributing the land and 80% of the units are earmarked for workers earning 60% of the area median income (AMI). All are deed restricted to longterm rentals.

A comprehensive strategy is needed

Let’s agree on the urgent need for a diversified economy. One that enables resort workers and skilled tradespeople to live where they work, and one that invites higher-paying jobs, such that more employees can afford to live where they work. Using multiple strategies to build workforce housing will help us get there.


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