Guest editorial | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial

When affordable housing isn’t affordable

Bill Humbert, Park City

Sometimes I see things differently…
Affordable Housing is a laudable goal for Park City and Summit County. Park City is actively searching for opportunities to grow affordable housing for local families.
Why go through this exercise? Park City and Summit County value the contributions that lower-income community members bring to our community.

Depending upon whose statistics you read, the lowest income of a middle class family is between $35,000 to $42,000 per year ($17 to $21 per hour) — below that is defined as poor. What is the income of store and restaurant managers in town? Other than high-income attractions, many in Park City fall into this range — or lower.

To quality for affordable house the state sets the income ceiling $80,000 per year ($40 per hour). Obviously, this bar is too high. Therefore as a community, we need to begin to prioritize. Is it important that our local government employees can afford to live in Park City? Should a person who teaches our children be able to afford to live in our community? Do we even want primary homeowners in Park City; or should we simply accept that Park City only wants the wealthy second homeowners?

This is just housing. As we pass large bonds, consider the impacts on the working class. Seasonal and retail employees earn $8 to $13 per hour. This amounts to $16,000 to $26,000 per year before taxes. Then as a community we increase taxes to pay for “priorities.” Their landlord then needs to raise rent. As a community, we raise the "fees" (taxes) for water usage. We raise "fees" (taxes) for trash collection. Then as a community, we raise taxes to build or remodel new schools.

For every $50 per month for new taxes/fees, it costs those families $600 per year after income taxes. This is literally taking food out of those children's mouths. How do those increased taxes/fees further negatively impact those workers? We also raise the taxes on commercial properties (i.e. stores, doctors' offices, gas stations, etc.) where those businesses must also increase the cost of their goods/services.
Then people who work here are no longer able to live here. Those families will move where they can afford to live — and will try to find work there. Those children will no longer be students in Park City schools; and we will need to close schools.

Are we capable of making sensible decisions?

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The question to ask is where is the tipping point where we lose our community to the almighty dollar – and is it worth it?
Maybe the time has come to determine all elements that combine to make a community vibrant. Then as a community of governments determine when the community cannot afford one more dollar in taxes.

The time has come to march for our town. Participate in decision making within the city and the county. Let's focus on our priorities to keep our working families in town and make Park City attractive and affordable for the workers who make our community such a great place to live.