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Summit County steps up to save affordable housing

MIchelle Deininger

The Summit County Council sealed the deal Wednesday: it will put half a million dollars toward renovating and keeping Elk Meadows Apartments affordable.

Elk Meadows, rebranded as Victory at Summit, will rent units at below-market rates for at least the next 40 years. The 106-unit apartment complex is next to I-80 on Kilby road west of Kimball Junction.

The complex gained notoriety a couple of years ago after tenants complained about poor living conditions. The owner at the time, Security Properties, fixed the apartments in order to regain its business license, then sold the apartments to Utah Housing Preservation Fund last year.

UHPF manager Lukas Ridd assured the council that the funds’ operating agreement with the state ensures rents remain low.

“If it remains with the fund, we will be keeping the project affordable,” Ridd said.

But the new owners estimated the apartments need at least $2 million in repairs. They asked the county for help.

Wednesday, the county council approved a grant totalling $500,000.

Council Vice Chair Malena Stevens said the money is coming from the county’s “in lieu” fund.

“Because of our inclusionary zoning ordinance people need to either provide the affordable housing when they develop, or there's a fee that they can pay instead of providing that,” she said. “That money all goes into a separate fund, which currently has around $500,000.”

That money helps the housing preservation fund finance lower than market-rate rent. Residents of Victory at Summit must make below a certain income level, but exceptions are made for residents who better their financial situation while living in affordable housing.

Mountainlands Community Housing Trust advocate Megan McKenna stood up during public comment to thank the council for moving unanimously to approve a grant to UHPF.

“We really appreciate any efforts to preserve our affordable housing stock, and the impact that it will have on our community and families is real,” McKenna said.

The county and fund’s contract, which will be finalized after input from the fund’s lender KeyBank, says the property’s deed restrictions will expire in 40 years.

According to the county’s Economic Development and Housing Director Jeff Jones, that’s a typical timeframe for properties owned by the state housing fund.

Ridd said the 40 year timeframe allows the flexibility to redevelop and rebuild the units in the future. But as long as the fund owns them, they will be affordable.