This weekend I wrote an article entitled What I Don’t Get About Affordable Housing. I wrote that locations like Kamas and Oakley are already “affordable” without us jumping through hoops to try and figure out how we put the horse back in the barn. A community member responded saying that “outsourcing our affordable housing only exacerbates the problem” with regard to issues like transportation. She also mentioned that she likes the diversity that comes with neighbors from all walks of life.
She makes good points. There are benefits to having a diverse community — one not made up of only second home owners. Yet, members of community have been beating this drum for years and nothing really changes. So, if we really do want affordable housing, what can we do about?
I’ll throw out one suggestion. If affordable housing is a component of a development project, make them build it, ALWAYS. One of the core concepts of both Park City and Summit County’s development code is a concept called fee in lieu. What this means is that instead of building affordable housing the developer can pay the local government money instead. What if that possibility was taken off the table. If the developer, who wants to build the new Whole Foods, wants to go forward, make them actually build affordable housing on-site or somewhere else within 5 miles of the location. Don’t let them pay money instead. If a developer wants to rebuild the old Kimball Arts Center building on Main Street, make sure that agreement includes real affordable housing at or near the building.
Perhaps there is some sort of state law that requires the fee in lieu option, but my guess is that it is included for the ease of developers. What if it was hard to incorporate or too expensive to buy land elsewhere for affordable housing, what would they ever do? Perhaps they would use their creativity to figure something out and deliver a solution many members of the community have wanted for years.
It sounds like the new Silver Creek Village will dedicate about 25% of its 1200 units to affordable housing. There you go! We can debate whether affordable housing is what the community really wants as a whole, but if the answer is yes, then let’s do something really crazy… like scrap fee in lieu and actually build something.