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Summit County Council Holds Special Meeting, Discusses Familiar Topic Of Housing

Holding a special session November 25th, the Summit County Council discussed their 2020 budget briefly, held a closed session, and acted to meet a state deadline.

And they spent time on the familiar topic of affordable housing.

The Council voted to officially approve a Moderate-Income Housing Plan, which has to be sent on to the state by December 1st.

Council member Glenn Wright, recapping the meeting, said three recent bills passed by the Utah Legislature require the submittals from  local governments.    They need to submit a plan in order to qualify for state transportation funds.        

“What the state has finally realized is that sprawl is making northern Utah unmanageable, so they have come to the conclusion that we need more affordable housing and it needs to be transit-oriented-development-type housing.  So they’ve tied transportation funding, which gets the attention of cities and counties, to an affordable housing plan.”

When the Snyderville Planning Commission considered the plan, some of the members wanted a statement that affordable housing  would be integrated into the community.    Development Director Pat Putt crafted some language with that sentiment.    But in the November 25th discussion, the Council set that paragraph aside.   

“We wanted to get a little bit more clarity on exactly what it meant.   We’re pretty much in congruence with Pat and the Planning Commission on that concept.  We’re just not exactly sure what they wrote was gonna get us there.  So we want a little further discussion on it, that’s all.”

It was also noted that the Council wants affordable rental units, but there is a recurring problem.    Developers promise their projects will include apartments.   But later they say that, due to financial difficulties, they instead want to condomiumize the units.       

“Some of the federal requirements for getting federal funds for affordable housing have some time limits on them.   They have some restrictions on them.   And if you can’t meet some of those restrictions and not get the federal funds, then you have to go to the market and condomiumize.  Now when you condomiumize those projects, they’ll still be affordable, but they’ll be affordable ownership units, rather than rental units.”

Wright said the county and developers need to work together to deal with the legal and finance requirements for workforce housing.        

“Because another issue of federal funding, the LTEC funding, the Low Income Tax Credit funding, is for the most part, you can only use income criteria to qualify renters.  The county would  like to also put in geographical restrictions.   We would prefer to build housing for our workers in the county, not in other counties.  Course, every other county has the same ideas.”

He said a similar philosophy exists in Wasatch County, where they only require 10 percent of new development to be affordable, compared to Summit County’s 20 percent.    Wright said when asked why, Wasatch officials said they don’t want to build units for workers in Summit County or Salt Lake County.

Summit County’s code also has Provision 2.3, which says the county will not approve new entitlements unless a project can show a compelling public benefit.   

Wright said that promising affordable housing can certainly be an element to meet 2.3        

“We have to look at each development individually, and see how much affordable housing is being offered to us.  For instance in the Lincoln Station example—the Snyderville Basin code requires 20 percent.   We’re getting close to 50 percent there.   That we viewed as an adequate answer to 2.3  We have other developments coming forward in the future, and when they come to us, we’ll be talking to developers on, “What else can you do to make Summit County a better place?”

Summit County Council Member Glenn Wright.

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