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Affordable Housing Remains A Large Issue In Summit County

Affordable housing continues to be an issue that local officials look to address.

Summit County and Park City affordable housing programs use a measuring stick of Area Median Income Summit County Economic Development Director Jeff Jones says that for housing purposes they look at targets that are 80% of the AMI and below.

Jones explains the unique challenge Summit County faces.

“The average earnings per job are lower, but the area median income for Summit County is quite high,” Jones explained. “The Area Median Income is $109,800 based upon say a family of four but those dollars are not all earned within Summit County. That's counting all of the income blowing into a family unit from whatever source. When we look at our job makeup, of earnings per job in Summit County then the average earnings per job are about $53-54,000 a year.”

Jones notes that the median earnings per job are about 13% lower than the national average while the cost of living in Summit County is about 40% higher than the national average. Jones says there are no projects available for those who earn below 50% AMI.

“With the exception of what we call structural where somebody is moving to a new location and then somebody else on the wait list takes their place,” Jones continued. “As you move up the AMI table on say ownership units then when you hit 80% of AMI that means in Summit County you've got to have a unit target price of about $320,000 in order to hit the 80% AMI target. Any type of fluctuation in interest rates things like that can make that even more challenging.”

There’s not a lot available within the price range of $300,000 in any part of the county. There’s also not a lot of affordable rental units as well.

Jones says the result is that the work force is imported into Park City. In 2015 Summit County imported 15,130 workers and exported 9,920 workers, while 9,920 lived and worked in the county. In Park City the import is almost 11,000 workers and export 2,000 and 1,795 lived and worked in Park City.

“As employment has grown and without keeping pace with housing for workers then the imported traffic loads flowing in and out of the County and city have changed and have grown accordingly,” Jones said. “So, we're kind of in that position to whereas a community we have to look at it and say OK well what's better for us? Do we continue to import all this labor? Do we put more resources in housing? Do we say we're just going to build better transportation systems and hope that works? Is it going to be a hybrid of both? It's a complicated problem and there's no place out there that I'm aware of where you pick up the newspaper and read Telluride has solved jobs/housing balance.”

One resort town that has done a good job of creating housing is Whistler, British Columbia. Jones says the Canadian town did it with directives from the local government.

“There were specific directives they capture about between 78 and 82% of their workforce,” Jones explained. “I think part of the reason why is, they’re more remote. They're not located next to a large metropolitan area like we are. As a result, it’s kind of like well if we're going to make this work; we've got to create enough housing in order to offer that to employees to run the operations.”

Jones says that market forces for housing are also challenged because of the pent-up demands.

“If you’re working with tech industries and let's say that they’re on a growth pattern and they're adding 10 jobs per year,” Jones continued. “That's a little easier to deal with than when you have a resort economy where you're opening new hotels. A new hotel may need between 150-210 employees all at once, the day that they open. We get it in bunches which further complicates the problem.”

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