Guest editorial: Workforce housing benefits private, not public, sector
September 4, 2015
Recent articles highlighting affordable housing projects in Park City are missing a key discussion point, which is the difference between private and public benefit. Park City currently faces two urgent and significant challenges: quality of education and management of growth. Economic discussions regarding affordable housing state a primary positive impact of affordable housing is growth stimulation. Park City needs to manage growth, not create it.
The conversation about affordable housing should distinguish between public benefit and private benefit. A benefit of the Bonanza Park as stated by the developer, Mr. DeJoria, "[He] thought it would be fantastic to build a 48-bed workforce housing spot for young people because they can walk to work." As a member of the community, I have a hard time seeing the public benefit of Vail employees living close to work. Rather, it is a private benefit — a benefit to Vail. In terms of supply and demand, workforce housing takes housing units off the public market, decreasing supply, thus raising the cost of rent. Workforce housing is a benefit to Vail that offsets wage increases and eliminates the need for them to provide transportation for employees. Many tech companies in the Bay Area have faced similar issues with hiring due to location. Their solution to provide privately funded mass transportation appears to have worked quite well for Silicon Valley firms and their employees. Vail should look into this, as employment is a Vail issue (private), not a public issue. Until Park City experiences a downturn in growth and unemployment increases, workforce housing is a corporate issue.
In fact, there does seem to be affordable housing in Park City. 23 percent of students in our school district are eligible for free or reduced-lunch pricing. Which segues into the second urgent issue facing our town: education. Recent editorials have pointed out the fact that our school district has dropped in rankings nationally, launching itself off a cornice, buried knee deep, not to be found anywhere on two of the three ranking organizations.
I would submit that a potential solution could involve the affordable housing initiative currently being discussed. Much research has been conducted to establish a link between strong teachers and a high quality of education. Our schools are expanding and more teachers will ultimately be needed. How are we to attract top talent if teachers can’t afford to live here? Imagine the attention that would be created if Park City Municipality were to support the Park City School District by assuring any affordable housing units built are used for educators. Now THAT is a public benefit. Using public initiatives to benefit our children’s public education.
Ann Futch earned a degree in Economics from The Johns Hopkins University and earned an MBA from Duke University.