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Accessory apartments “another tool in the toolbox” for affordable housing, say Park City staff

Lynn Ware Peek
City council will be considering changes to the city's code for accessory dwelling apartments next month.

The Park City Council is set to consider changes to the city’s code for accessory apartments next month. If the changes are adopted, more affordable housing could become available in Park City.

How to get more of the people who work in Park City to live in Park City is not a new problem for city hall. With skyrocketing real estate prices and reasonably priced rentals becoming more and more scarce over the years, finding a solution has become a top priority for the city council.

One facet of Park City’s housing crisis is the recent proliferation of short-term rentals, like the ones found on Airbnb and VRBO. Many of the units now available for rent in Park City are rented on a nightly basis, which provides a lucrative business opportunity for property owners, but has forced out many who traditionally rented those same low-cost units to live near their work.

The planning commission forwarded a positive recommendation to the council earlier this month for changes to the city’s code to reduce some of that pressure.

Proposed changes to accessory dwelling apartments, or ADAs, include lengthening minimum lease length from 30 to 90 days, increasing the number of apartments allowed inside a 300-foot radius, and reducing the minimum allowed square footage to just 280 square feet.

ADAs are units added on to a single-family home. Park City Planner Rebecca Ward says allowing more of them and allowing them to be built in smaller sizes could spur homeowners to build more ADAs, which could lead to more options for affordable housing.

“What we’re looking at are some potential reductions to some of the regulations to hopefully incentivize more of these accessory apartments," says Ward. "Nightly rentals are prohibited, so it will help increase the long-term rental stock city wide.”

Changes to the city code are not the only way Park City is looking to tackle the housing problem. The city council is also considering a deed restriction program that would pay a property owner a percentage of their home’s value in exchange for permanently giving up the ability to rent the property on a nightly basis.

Park City Housing Development Manager Jason Glidden says code changes are just one option for the city alongside things like the deed program and building new housing all together.

“It’s just another tool in the toolbox," he says. "It’s just increasing housing opportunities in the community. ADUs, yes, can tend to be built faster. They are generally smaller units in size, which tends to lead toward a cheaper rent, so that helps in affordability. Like Rebecca said, any way we can incentivize to create more long-term rental solutions or long-term rental units, is going to help out the community.”

The city conducted a survey on ADAs earlier this year, and some public feedback asked how changing codes would affect homeowners’ association bylaws. Ward says a state law passed earlier this year does influence how HOAs can enforce their own bylaws when it comes to accessory units, but the code changes the city is proposing do not.

“Whatever regulations are in place for homeowners associations, the city is not intending to impact those," Ward says. "When someone converts a portion of their single-family home into an internal accessory dwelling unit, the state did preempt HOAs specifically to those IADUs, but the city went through and really minimized where those would be allowed. There is some impact to HOAs with those, but the accessory apartment code does not propose any changes.”

The city council will discuss the code changes in a work session December 9th. A public hearing on the changes is scheduled for December 16th. Input from the public can be sent ahead of the meetings to planning@parkcity.org.

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.