PARK CITY Officials here are banking on two new affordable-housing projects plus long-standing development ordinances to save the town from becoming made up of wealthy second-home owners.
But city housing director Phyllis Robinson said there's almost no chance of building the 300 additional affordable-housing units the city will need by 2010. Adding to its woes, the city may be working against itself by purchasing huge tracts of open space using taxpayer money.
There are about 465 deed-controlled affordable-housing units in Park City, comprising about 6 percent of the city's total housing projects.
Joe Kernan has owned one of those homes since he moved to the resort town from Pittsburgh in 1996. The city councilman was allowed to purchase the affordable home after putting himself on a waiting list during a ski vacation.
"I think affordable housing really allows people to make a long-term commitment to the community," said Kernan, who rents out one of the three bedrooms in his home. "I think it's really awesome. It allows them to build a life here."
One of the planned projects will be funded by fees collected from developers and property tax increment projects. The city plans to build 13 single-family homes in a flat stretch of land near Dan's Super Market on Snow Creek Drive. When they're built, the city will hold a raffle for eligible would-be homeowners and sell the homes below cost.
The other project is expected to be built across the street from an Intermountain Healthcare hospital under construction at Quinn's Junction, at the intersection of state routes 40 and 248. The project, if approved, will be annexed into the city. It is expected to include about 150 market-rate lots and about 50 affordable units, to be served by a new park-and-ride service connecting to the city's free buses.
The affordable units in the Quinns Junction project must be built according to a Park City ordinance mandating that 15 percent of new housing be affordable. The ordinance also requires businesses to mitigate housing demand for 20 percent of their new workers.
The Park City Heights Project fills the housing requirements for several projects, including the new hospital. The annexation application, which if approved would OK the housing project, is working its way through the City Council. The Snow Creek project is being heard by the Planning Commission.
Both projects have garnered criticism during public hearings from residents who are concerned about decreasing property values, increased traffic and potential problems such as increased crime. But at least one City Council member, Roger Harlan, feels building affordable housing is magnanimous.
"Good politics is being courteous and listening to your critics, and if you feel like you're right you move ahead," he said. "There's been a lot of time, a lot of will and commitment for this project."
Affordable housing is defined as not more than 30 percent of the total wage for people making between 80 percent and 140 percent of the area median salary. Park City only looks at its core work force, excluding second-home owners and residents who make most of their money out-of-state. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, however, doesn't exclude those higher wages. HUD provides some housing assistance in the city.
In the past, Park City has purchased lots and built affordable homes to sell below cost to city employees and other eligible wage earners. Interested workers are put on a waiting list to buy the units. The homes in the program are allowed to appreciate only 3 percent per year but can be sold whenever the original owner is ready to move on. Luckily for the city's new police chief, Wade Carpenter, one of those units became available just in time for his move to the city.
Carpenter, a strong believer in community policing, has instituted policies in affordable-housing neighborhoods that he hopes will reduce crime there, he said.
Simultaneous to building the cheaper housing, Park City and Summit County have spent millions on acquiring open space in recent years, thereby making usable land within the small resort town even harder to come by.
The two goals aren't in conflict, Robinson said, but rather acquiring both open space and cheap housing is about finding a balance.
"The solution isn't just building everywhere because that destroys, ultimately, the character of the town," she said.
Harlan said some of the open space has never been open to development, so the city's decision to purchase and protect it is just a guarantee of precious assets for the future. The community would never have allowed housing to be built somewhere like Osguthorpe Farm at the city's entrance, he said.
Within the next five years, developers will have to build a lot of affordable housing to fall in line with city and county ordinances, said Scott Loomis, director of the Mountain Lands Housing Trust Fund. The housing problem will then evolve into one of educating eligible potential homebuyers about their options, he said.
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