Record editorial: Affordable housing remains a vexing issue, but progress is possible
On Thursday, Parkites spent a peaceful Thanksgiving at their homes throughout the Park City area.
But many of the people who make our town successful celebrated their holiday around dinner tables in places like Wasatch County, Utah County and the Salt Lake Valley. That’s because, despite their contributions to our community, they can’t afford to live here.
The reality that thousands of people in our workforce are priced out of the real estate market is, of course, not breaking news. It’s a problem elected officials and others have been grappling with for years and that has caused consternation for countless workers.
According to a recent report from Jeff Jones, Summit County’s economic development and housing director, the problem is only growing. The deficit of moderate-income housing in the county (not including Park City) grew by 258 units this year. And the total shortfall over the next five years is projected to top 2,100 units.
An optimist would point to the more than 600 deed-restricted units that Jones reports are in the development process. And certainly, they will be life changing for the people fortunate enough to move into one. Calling the anticipated units a drop in the bucket wouldn’t be accurate, exactly, but they won’t alleviate our affordable housing woes — especially as other trends, such as the rise of the nightly rental market and wages growing more slowly than housing costs, exacerbate the problem.
So for now, the decades-long status quo remains: Not everyone who wants to live in Park City can afford to do so, even if they are one of the restaurant workers, teachers, police officers or bus drivers who make our community function.
What can be done? Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet, as anyone who has studied the issue or helped craft public policy at the local government level will attest.
That doesn’t mean there’s no hope for at least moderate progress.
The County Courthouse, for one, may opt to take a cue from the Marsac Building and construct its own affordable housing projects on land it owns in the Snyderville Basin. The Park City Council, meanwhile, recently approved a resolution that, among other changes to current policy, will require developers to alot 20% of new developments to affordable housing rather than 15%.
It’s true that those efforts will fall well short of eliminating the problem, but they demonstrate a continued desire among our elected leaders to keep working toward solutions.
Will everyone who contributes to our community ever be able to make ends meet here? That remains unlikely given the market forces at play.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.
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