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Deed Restriction Program Could Help Solve Park City’s Housing Problems

Lynn Ware Peek

A unique way to incentivize primary residents in Park City homes has piqued the curiosity of the Park City Council: paying them to stay here.


It’s a concept that’s gained traction in other mountain resort communities like Vail and Breckenridge in Colorado: Paying homeowners a percentage of their house’s value as an incentive to require whoever is living there to be a full-time resident. That’s accomplished by a permanent deed restriction on the property. 


Park City Municipal will be looking into whether a similar program would make sense here.


In a study session at last week’s council meeting, staff and council discussed the details of what is being called the Live Park City - Lite Deed Restriction Program. In short, the city would pay a homeowner somewhere between 15-20% of their property’s value in exchange for giving up their ability to become a short-term rental.


Short-term rentals, like what’s found on Airbnb and VRBO, are incredibly lucrative for property owners, but in many cases eliminate a significant amount of long-term rentals traditionally sought after by many in the workforce.


Workforce housing became so scarce in places like Vail and Breckenridge that their local governments enacted similar policies in 2019 in an effort to bring some of those rentals back on the long-term market. Vail has seen some success in their program.


Park City is in a similar situation with thousands of units on the short-term market and many of the city’s workers commuting in from elsewhere.


Councilor Max Doilney told KPCW the plan is still in the concept phase, and there are many details that still need to be worked out, like what exactly makes someone a full-time resident.


“We’re trying to get creative with how to sort of assure that people are living here, but they’re also participating in the community,” Doilney said. “My ideas were participating with some local nonprofits, the occasional volunteer thing, because we’re not talking about small amounts of money, we’re trying to get people over the hump on their down payment, which I think everybody knows is a really big hurdle for getting into a home or a condo in Park City. If we can get them over the hump and then we can commit them to living here and being part of our community, that’s the goal.”


During the study session, Councilor Becca Gerber added the city should keep in mind some “full time” residents might start in Park City and then accept work opportunities elsewhere. She said the city should not punish people who do so.


“I do know that we need to address a workforce shortage in Park City proper right now, and I do also think that once people are into their property, if they have different opportunities, we’re not going to say we’re taking back the deed restriction if you start working in Salt Lake, having come from working in Park City,” said Gerber. “I think that maybe there’s an opportunity to at least give first priority and applications to people working in Park City right now.”


One significant hurdle the city must clear before a program like this could become a reality is the Utah Legislature. The legislature passed a bill earlier this year allowing homeowners to build accessory dwelling units on their property. Many saw it as further incentivizing short-term rentals since no restrictions were included on their use.


Doilney said the city will still work with state lawmakers on a solution, but said if history is any indicator, they might not be as enthusiastic about a deed-restriction program as the city is. 


“Don’t get me wrong, we will continue to work on this issue with the legislature, but they have made it very clear that they’re not really interested in limiting nightly rentals,” he said. “I think that’s a huge lobby in this state, and they consider it kind of a small-business option for people and they don’t want to take that away.”


The council decided to further explore the deed program last week. More details and a possible budget for the program will be presented at a future council meeting.

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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