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Is it Our Community’s Responsibility to Ensure Availability of Housing for Seasonal Workers?

Each year about this time we read about seasonal workers struggling to find places to stay around Park City. This problem then gets muddled with affordable and workforce housing. The conclusion is typically that the citizens of Park City need to figure this out…or else. Case in point is the ending sentence from this year’s Park Record article on the topic. “If the ski season pans out as predicted,workforce housing will be back at the top of the agenda in a serious way and Park City’s future success will depend on how effectively it is addressed.”

While we don’t doubt that temporary workers have a tough time finding places to stay, it doesn’t seem that cut and dry. However, first let’s cut to the chase on what affordable and workforce housing traditionally means. Typically the terms workforce and affordable housing are used interchangeably and mean rental units and homes that people can afford whose salary is between 60% and 120% of Area Medium Income (AMI). AMI for a family in Park City is 70,602. So, in this case workforce housing is targeted at families with incomes from 40,000 to 84,000. A temporary worker, coming to Park City for the winter likely doesn’t fit into this range. That doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer from an issue, it’s just not really a traditional “affordable housing” problem. Affordable housing initiatives seem targeted at those people who live here year round and always need a place to stay (i.e. it’s not just a winter issue). But that’s another topic entirely.

So, we have people who come to Park City to work during the winter and need a place to stay for 4 months. In years gone by, we could see how it would seem like a local issue. Deer Valley, PCMR, and Canyons (ParkWest or Wolf Mountain in way earlier times) felt local and we needed to support out local. That’s not the case anymore. Today’s Park City is really Deer Vally and Vail. Deer Valley makes multi, multi millions per year, enough so that they bought Solitude. Vail had revenues of $1.3 billion in 2013. Do cities like Anaheim and Orlando concern themselves with housing for Disney workers? Not really. If anything they push Disney to figure it out. The same should happen here. If those company’s want the best workers, they’ll figure out a way to make sure they get them and they’ll take care of this issue along the way.

There are, of course, others that come to Park City during the season to work restaurants, ski shops, and other ancillary jobs outside the resorts. While the numbers pale in comparison, we’re not sure that’s really our responsibility either. The city and county get sales tax revenue from these businesses, and that benefits the community. However, the people who own the businesses are the people who monetarily succeed based on their employees. Again, it seems like perhaps the businesses should work together to figure this out.

So, we hear about the problem every year but each year we get a little more numb to it. Our sympathy we feel for the worker slowly shifts to disbelief toward the corporations.Yet, every year that we make it out to be a city, county, or community problem is one more year that the businesses don’t have to fix the issue.

So the question we ask is, “Is this really our community’s problem or does the answer lie with the businesses that profit?” We have our opinion but we expect come November 2015, we’ll hear all about this again.


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