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Summit County Council's June 9 Meeting Focused on Affordable Housing

The Summit County Council devoted a big chunk of its meeting time on Wednesday, June 9, to the issue of affordable housing.


That prompted a variety of comments from the council about where their workers come from, the industries they support and the character of Summit County.


The council heard an extensive demographic and economic report from County Economic Development Director Jeff Jones.


Among other things, he noted that the percentage of Summit County employees who live in the county has declined to 39%.


Councilor Chris Robinson told KPCW News that that percentage isn’t ideal.


“It seems like the trajectory is the median home price is going continue to rise,” Robinson said. “There will be more and more jobs created here, if you believe Jeff’s trend lines. And I think the jobs been created in the past at a little over 2% a year, maybe it was 4% a year, and in the future he’s projecting 2% a year. You have the housing getting real expensive and the percent that can afford it pulling away. And it gets to, are we just kind of a rich retirement community where everybody migrates into work, or are we a full-fledged community that has the full socioeconomic spectrum.”


During Wednesday’s discussion, Councilor Roger Armstrong said for him, there’s always been one core issue.


“I’ll say it again, I’ll keep saying it at every meeting until I’m done; growth is our biggest challenge and will remain our biggest challenge how we manage it, how we stimulate it, how we restrict it, affects everything from wildfire to water to energy use to you name it,” Armstrong said. This drought is an excellent example of why we have to pay attention to some of that.”


Council chair Glenn Wright said he supported councilor Malena Stevens when she said they have to consider what kind of community they are. Wright talked about one radical solution and what could follow from that.


“If growth is our only, is our primary issue, we can dramatically slow down growth by doing nothing,” Wright said. “And then the price of housing in this county, if you think it’s high now, it’ll double or triple and no one will move here. And we will have to bus in all of our workforce from other counties. If we were to do nothing, the market will take care of itself. And we will build a few more Promontorys, with 10,000-square-foot houses for millionaires that generate an incredible carbon footprint.”


In an exchange with Armstrong, Wright said that developers have to build more affordable units.


“We are way behind because we haven’t built enough,” Wright said. “That’s the reason why, that’s the reason why things are expensive. It’s supply and demand.”


Armstrong said he recently talked to County Manager Tom Fisher about industries centered on sustainability called “Green Hubs.”


Fisher said it is a great idea with flaws.


“But unless a couple of communities, or the unincorporated county is zoned Industrial somewhere, it ain’t happening,” Fisher said. “We would have to tell that business community where it needs to go and then incentivize people to get there, in order to have something like that happen. And we’ve never done anything like that.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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