Affordable housing, not traffic, is Park City’s greatest challenge
June 16, 2015
A recent item in Allen Best’s Mountain Town News rang especially true. According to the editor of the newspaper in Crested Butte, the affordable housing crisis there has become more critical than ever. And it is not just affecting seasonal workers, it is being felt by young professionals, too.
The same could be said about Park City, where finding prospective teachers, policemen, architects, engineers, etc. who want to work in a beautiful, recreation-oriented community is easy, until they try to find a place to live.
Unfortunately, that seems to be an inevitable downside that accompanies an uptick in the real estate market — a turn of fortune that, admittedly, we longed for after the recession. Most of the new projects planned on Main Street these days feature luxury accommodations for well-heeled travelers. That has pushed the second-home market into neighborhoods like Prospector and Park Meadows, where young families once found a steady supply of starter homes and condos.
In Old Town, the modest miners shacks that the previous generation fixed up and inhabited when they came to town in the 1970s are gone and there are few replacements to house the thousands of service workers needed to maintain the lifestyle our guests have come to expect.
Instead, those workers and their families are looking to the outskirts of town and the east side of the county for housing — which further exacerbates the town’s traffic congestion.
Park City and Summit County have attempted to mitigate the growing divide by requiring and/or incentivizing affordable housing developments and they have been met with some success. But the feverish pace of new development has far outpaced those efforts.
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We would argue that housing, not traffic, is Park City’s most pressing challenge. Ultimately the inability to house within the community a quality workforce — whether in restaurant kitchens or the halls of government — will stifle our productivity, force our children to move away and diminish our sense of community.
The solutions, including creative incentives and tough, uniformly enforced regulations, will require a strong political will at City Hall and the County Courthouse. Most importantly, the issue should be at the forefront of the upcoming municipal elections.
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