Wasatch County Reviews Proposal to Expand Housing Authority in Anticipation of Growth

Jan 30, 2021

Credit Wasatch County

In Wednesday's Interlocal meeting, Wasatch County officials received a presentation showing that 141 affordable housing owner-occupied units are needed each year to keep up with the growth in the area.


Mountainland Association of Governments Regional Director of Planning Shawn Seager presented county officials with a list of initiatives to address affordable housing challenges. The Wasatch County Housing Authority has been in place for about 10 years, and according to Seager, they've built some nice projects, and they've helped people with rental assistance and mortgages. But he said it is primarily a financial accounting entity. He believes a professional staff is needed to take on the affordable and attainable housing challenges in Wasatch County. 


"The reorganization would be more inclusive of all the local governments in Wasatch County. And play a little bit of a different role than what they played in the past. It would be a little bit more creative about how they're leveraging some of the local funds. Taking on a new role in the community and reestablishing itself, taking a look at their vision, mission, goals, objectives, resetting all those expectations of the Housing Authority in the current environment where we find ourselves in." 


Seager said the University of Utah provided a growth and housing study showing that both Wasatch and Summit County are way behind in affordable housing development.


"In the Summit area, we need 198 owner-occupied units per year to be constructed, and we had 141 units needed in Wasatch County—owner-occupied per year. And in the rental market in Summit County, we to be building 231 units per year at 102 units per year in Wasatch County. We're doing maybe 1% of that, 2% of that. Park City has a more aggressive effort than Wasatch County does at this point." 


By 2050, growth projections show Wasatch County doubling in population. Seager said growth does not automatically pay its own way for attainable or affordable housing. He said local governments need to take dramatic measures. 


"You know, I think the next thing for Wasatch County to consider is reorganize the housing authority, hire a full-time senior-level staff person, almost like a planning director. Leverage those local funds with state-federal funds and even some tax financing mechanism. Bond and build their own housing. Require land from new annexations. That's a big thing that is very important, to try to get free land when we are doing these things. And let's not give our dollars away through rental assistance and housing assistance. Let's try to take our dollars and leverage those into new rentals. Require affordable housing as part of any new development that's approved in Wasatch County. And then, hopefully, we consider some new sources of revenue like maybe some car rental tax increase statewide for affordable housing." 


Seager said Wasatch County is focused on the need for workforce housing. He used Midway as an example. For every 100 market-rate units built in Midway, another 49 employees are needed to take on jobs such as teachers, police officers, and other community support professions.