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Park City Explores Affordable Housing Incentives in Line with Vision 2020 Goals

Lynn Ware Peek

The Park City Planning Commission and City Council both reviewed ways to encourage more affordable housing construction in Park City at their respective meetings this week. Those incentives range from reducing building requirements for developers to a future demolition tax for old buildings that get torn down.


The people of Park City have heard a lot about Vision 2020 -- it’s the city’s new 10-year plan for the community that’s being used as a guide for city government’s future decision making.


The process identified a number of key areas locals want prioritized over the next decade. One of the top priorities is affordability and equity. 


At this week’s city council and planning commission meetings, local officials got to work looking at preliminary proposals to attract more affordable housing development to Park City.


Councilmember Becca Gerber told KPCW on Friday that tackling affordable housing is not easy. It’s well known how little housing is available in Park City and the surrounding areas for individuals and families not in the highest income brackets -- the average sale price of a house in Park City is over $1 million and many people who work essential jobs in the city don’t make enough money to actually live here. She said the scarcity ultimately comes down to a combination of cost and location. 


“The big issues we have are funding, finding land that’s available, and just watching the turnover in town right now where a lot of our housing that could be affordable is being demolished and turned into, you know, much higher-end luxury homes,” said Gerber. “And even if it’s not demolished, a lot of renovations are happening. Anything we can do on any of those fronts I think would be a help and so I think this really was just about coming up with some new ideas and taking a look at some ways we could potentially create incentives and create funds that could go towards affordable housing.” 


City Council kicked off their Thursday meeting with a presentation from Habitat for Humanity. The organization presented the council with a number of areas that could be explored in order to both make housing more affordable and provide more opportunities to build affordable housing in the future.


Alison Kuhlow helped give the presentation. Habitat’s suggestions included exploring a demolition tax for the tear-down of old buildings as well as designating a percentage of future open space purchases as areas where housing could be built.  Kuhlow said the suggestions are simply meant to get the discussion going around affordable housing. It will ultimately be up to the council to decide on what, if anything, to pursue. 


“We really are bringing this to the table as part of a discussion,” Kuhlow said. “We didn’t want this to be something where we wrote a report, we patted ourselves on the back and said ‘great, Park City Municipal and Jason, here’s more work for you.’ We really wanted to take the cost of home initiative and to use that as a launching point with our relationships with the other Habitat communities and be a part of the discussion. We just felt like this was a great way to start to bring some new ideas to the table.”


The planning commission also discussed a report on Wednesday that looked into reducing setback requirements, open space reductions, increasing maximum building heights, and loosening off-street parking requirements for new development projects. If the changes are ultimately adopted by the city, the hope is developers will be more willing to build affordable housing into future projects.


Planning commissioner Sarah Hall summed up the commission’s thoughts.


“I would say in general, I’m supportive of their recommendations, I just feel like if we want to have any shot of meeting our goal with affordable housing, that we kind of have to take some drastic measures,” she said. “And I think that, you know, we paid experts to tell us what to do on this, so we should heed to their advice.”


City council expressed a willingness to further look into the viability of Habitat for Humanity’s suggestions, but no vote was taken on their implementation on Thursday.


The next city council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 12th.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.
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