Guest editorial: Park City should change discussion from affordable housing to desirable housing
Sometimes I see things differently. … When I attended the initial meeting on the affordable housing development on Marsac Avenue, almost everyone who attended said they “support affordable housing! Just not there. … It’s one of the few open space areas in Old Town, it’s not fit for housing, it’s too steep, it’s not safe.” If you ask a simple question like, “Where should affordable housing be built?” they suggest somewhere else. Of course, we have seen the reactions to somewhere else — repeat above.
Unfortunately, we cannot hang affordable housing from the sky because it would block someone’s views. Let’s examine who may afford our definition of “affordable.”
According to the 2018 Pew Research Center on middle-class household income, household incomes range from about $45,200 to $135,600 in 2016. Lower-income households had incomes less than $45,200 and upper-income households had incomes greater than $135,600 (all figures computed for three-person households, adjusted for the cost of living in a metropolitan area, and expressed in 2016 dollars).
In Park City, HUD calculates the area median income for a family of four as $109,800. Since children may no longer work prior to age 16, they do not contribute to the family income. This is a problem because “affordable housing” is based on the income of people who currently live here, not the teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, medical staff, many who work for nonprofits, and other new professionals that most people find desirable as neighbors.
Any worker who is earning less than $22 an hour is classified as lower class by Pew Research Center — in other words, new college grads, entry electricians, plumbers, landscape workers, restaurant workers, retail clerks, etc. are not able to afford living here.
Since the people we need in our community to sustain the services we desire cannot afford affordable housing, we need to create a new class of housing. May I suggest we call it desirable housing. The people who live in desirable housing are people that we desire to welcome to Park City.
Desirable housing should be mixed into all neighborhoods — yes, including neighborhoods like Deer Valley, The Colony, and Glenwild. That suggestion will raise some ire. Let’s face it, the people living in those areas like help with the landscaping, babysitting, chefs, servers and security. Why should those qualified people be told they can’t live there? Additionally, it would lower the number of cars on the road leading to those areas.
In a mountain town, where can we put desirable housing? Let’s be a tiny bit creative. Let’s try ideas that were tried in the past and worked such as mixed-use housing. The new Whole Foods store has housing above. How about above the stores where the Market and Fresh Market are located? Those stores could “Reserve” space for their workers (more cars off the roads!). When the arts and culture district is planned, build housing into each building — create an arts community that thrives. Invite culture and arts teachers in the Park City School District to live in the desirable housing. Let’s try new ideas! How about including teacher and education staff housing above every school building and creating an education district that is alive after school? Cruise ships provide housing and meals for every worker — hotels can do the same. Make it easy and affordable for the workers and recruiting costs less. Limit the number of cars in these districts to one per household. Provide car sharing and bus transportation nearby. Saying “We can’t do it” is not helpful solving any problem. Instead ask, “How do we make this happen?”
Desirable housing is limited only by our fears. Isn’t it best to have people who are invested in our community at all income levels? I believe so. All of us will protect OUR Park City.
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“[I]f Park City and Summit County love Richardson Flat as much as they claim to, maybe they should demonstrate their love by cleaning it up and leading by example,” writes Micah Kagan in a letter to the editor.