Guest editorial: A place we want to call home | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: A place we want to call home

Jack Thomas, Park City Mayor

This is the first in a series of guest editorials on Park City's three Critical Priorities: Housing, Transportation, and Energy.

Without workforce housing, the majority of Park City's teachers, police and firefighters, as well as resort, restaurant and retail employees, cannot afford to live here. Instead, they are forced to live in other communities and travel into ours, thereby changing the composition and character of our small town. This cycle clogs our roads, harms our mountain environment, and erodes some of the very essence of what makes Park City so special.

The easy thing to do is roll over and give up: market forces are powerful, and some believe government should get out of the way. But I won't give up, nor will this City Council roll over, because we can't be a healthy community without a cross-section of diverse people living and working here.

Our current housing inventory is roughly 10,000 units, less than a third of which are occupied year-round. Of those year-round units, only a third are available for rent. Likewise, the median price for a single-family house is about $1.6 million, while a two-bedroom apartment in Summit County rents for $1,500 a month or more. And the availability of rental units is practically on life support, with apartment campuses reporting 97 and 100 percent occupancy.

As a result, the City Council identified "Affordable, Attainable and Middle-income Housing" as a critical priority and immediately went to work. Our goal is to achieve a 20 percent affordable housing inventory, which equates to roughly 800 new affordable units by 2026. Though we won't, and couldn't possibly, build everything ourselves, we are currently constructing eight new affordable single-family units at 1450/60 Park Avenue. We also have 14 new affordable units, which include townhomes and accessory apartments, in the final stages of design at 1353 Park Avenue. Following that, we anticipate another 60-plus units in Phase 2 of the 1353 Park Avenue development, including more townhomes and apartment-style condominium units.

We also continue to work with and encourage private developers, both in partnership and to ensure that they honor their own affordable and workforce housing obligations. You may have seen this recently with the Park City Heights development. Though delayed, 10 new homes were released to the public this year, and 69 additional workforce units will follow. Conversely, we are also purchasing land, including the most visible acquisition of two vacant acres in Bonanza Park, adjacent to Recycle Utah. We hope to provide 60 to70 workforce housing units here, and our initial plans comply with the City's zoning to maintain compatibility with the neighborhood.

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We are also confident our housing goals can be accomplished in concert and in balance with our other critical priorities of transportation and energy, not in conflict. We plan to use energy-efficient building standards (future housing net-zero) and strategic, in-town locations with access to transit and bike routes. Though it won't be easy and won't be accomplished overnight, we believe our roadmap will help provide desperately needed opportunities for the next generation of Park City.

All in all, most of us recognize how lucky we are to live in Park City. Yet, just as often, some of us fail to acknowledge that we probably couldn't afford to buy a house here today.

Your Mayor and City Council will continue to strive to be a more complete community — one with a diverse, cross-section of people living and working together in town, and thereby maintaining our unique and special sense of place and community.