Guest editorial: How to actually support affordable housing

Geoff Lamb, community manager, Liberty Peak/Cowboy Properties, Park City
Park Record guest editorial

I have worked as the Community Manager for Liberty Peak Apartments more or less since the beginning, and after nearly 12 years since we opened, I have a few thoughts on affordable housing in our community. While we’re not always perfect, we strongly believe Liberty Peak sets a high bar for what affordable housing in Park City can and should look like. We are managed and owned by Cowboy Properties and Cowboy Partners, a local concern that firmly believes in building quality affordable housing throughout Utah. Our owners are proud of their community and put their money where their mouth is by continuing to own what they developed and built. They’re not interested in becoming bad neighbors; they want their communities to sparkle and serve as an example of what “low-income” housing should look like.

To that end, we are always interested in helping out our fellow developers in adding similar quality affordable housing to the community. The latest significant player in this field — Dakota Pacific — has put together a plan for more such housing. More noteworthy is that they’re going to build right next door to Liberty Peak. By any standard one would believe someone in my position to be opposed to this idea, but I’m not. I’m eager to have more people playing in my sandbox because we’re building the types of communities this town desperately needs.

I know many people are opposed to Dakota Pacific’s plan, but I wonder if the reasons given really represent their true feelings. If you oppose Dakota Pacific’s plans because of their tactics, that’s one thing, but if you oppose them because you don’t want more affordable housing, then you’ve got your head in the sand. Our community is financially balkanized. Twenty years ago, the middle class could afford to buy in Summit County. Not so today. New entrants to our community can either buy homes that cost more than a million dollars, or they can buy or rent designated affordable housing. Very few options exist in between. Our community today is made up of an extreme imbalance of wealth, and this disparity dictates that a disproportionately greater quantity of affordable housing has become a necessary addition to our neighborhoods.

Some may not like to hear it, but you really need to have your bank tellers, grocery cashiers, office receptionists, personal trainers, bus drivers, snow removers, maintenance technicians, fellow pensioners, kindergarten teachers, yoga instructors, retail clerks, social workers, general contractors and massage therapists living in and around your community. These people are assets, not liabilities, and they have voices that are not often heard during these debates. Sure, some bad actors are found here and there, but on the whole you’re not going to find many jeopardizing their housing in this town with bad decision making, especially once they become owners rather than just renters. The residents of my community exemplify this perfectly. One-hundred percent of heads of households at Liberty Peak are employed in greater Park City. The number one reason people moved out of Liberty Peak last year was to purchase affordable housing in the Wasatch Back, and this was in a year that marked my lowest turnover ever — just 18% of my residents moved out, an unheard-of number in our industry!

Now I hate to say this, but if you support more road traffic congestion in and out of Summit County at all hours of the day, if you like greater employee turnover at your favorite restaurant or store, if you’d prefer your non-millionaire children to live far away from you, or if you think someday this town will have just one stoplight in it again, then by all means, continue your opposition to new affordable housing. But if you can see the writing on the wall about where our community is headed, then please join me in supporting continued affordable housing in and around the Snyderville Basin. Your grandchildren will appreciate it even if you can’t yet.


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