The Park City Council will host a work session Thursday addressing revisions to the city’s land management code regarding affordable housing.
Park City commissioned an analysis of the land management code by consulting firm Cascadia Partners, to see where changes could be made to encourage the development of affordable housing by private developers. Interim Park City Manager Matt Dias says the report reveals a few items: that housing is a problem municipalities can’t solve on their own; that Utah state law doesn’t afford as much local control over housing programs as other states; and that the city does have some options to make it easier to build.
“The third is the local factor—we have a modest zoning approach, in terms of setbacks, height, density, parking, open space provisions," Dias said. "And so those are the restrictive factors that have made it very difficult for the private sector to participate.”
The analysis shows current open space, parking, building height and setback requirements result in high-cost projects and regular requests for exceptions during the planning process. Also, density bonuses under the affordable housing master planned development option result in micro-units, as the only way to add density under the previously mentioned requirements is to shrink the units. Dias says the city can’t be sure if changing those requirements to be less restrictive will result in more affordable housing construction, but other municipalities have incorporated those adjustments into their own codes.
“These aren’t new tools," Dias said. "These aren't really innovative policies, changing parking requirements, changing the height restrictions, but you have to use them in collection with each other. Just one of these levers won't work in a vacuum. You have to use multiple factors to incentivize the private sector to get into the game.”
Dias admits some of these potential changes might not be popular with residents. Currently, the city’s Woodside Park Phase II project is stuck in limbo after a resident appealed the planning commission’s approval for the second time, based on the city’s request for setback reductions. Dias says that’s why the city wants public input.
“I'll say, though, that these are often very, very sensitive issues, and they can sometimes pit neighborhoods against each other," Dias said. "That's the reason we're doing this in public. That's the reason we provided this report, and I know that council wants to hear from the public on this.”
For the city to make headway on its affordable housing goals—800 units by 2026—Dias says the municipality needs cooperation from public, private and nonprofit partners.
The city council will discuss the land management code amendments at their Thursday work session, starting at 3:30 p.m. at the Marsac Building.