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Week 4: Puttin' On The Rent

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Anyone who’s searched for a rental unit in Utah knows that finding an affordable apartment isn’t easy, and it’s been this way for years. Simply put, there aren’t enough units to meet that demand, and that has sent prices through the roof, especially in wealthy, tourism-driven places like Park City.

So, in an attempt to create more affordable housing, some want to make it easier to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs. Those are units like mother-in-law apartments that homeowners can add to their property and rent out. But some city officials aren’t on board with what they call a one-size-fits-all approach.

In this episode, hosts Emily Means and Sonja Hutson look at Utah’s affordable housing problem and talk with Park City Mayor Andy Beerman about what to do when the rent is too damn high.

Guests

Park City Mayor Andy Beerman

Mayor Andy Beerman Interview Highlights

Interview highlights have been edited for length and clarity.

On Park City’s affordable housing problem:

Park City's problem is particularly challenging because the rising cost of land and housing is so acute in Park City. The median home sale has risen to just under $2.5 million, which puts it in the realm of absurd for not only our workforce, or our teachers or essential service workers, but even doctors, lawyers, professionals can't afford to live in town. So it's been very difficult to keep a middle class in Park City.

On what the city has done to address it:

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Renee Bright
A housekeeper in Park City makes just under $30,000 per year, which means they should spend no more than $750 on rent per month. The average income for the service industry as a whole isn't much higher at just over $33,000. That means people working in Park City's second-largest industry can't afford to live where they work.

About five years ago, we set an ambitious goal — or what seemed like an ambitious goal — to build 800 new units by 2026. The idea behind that was at that point, five years ago, we had about 15% of our workforce living in Park City and that number was on the decline. In doing the math, we had to build 800 new units to keep that even at a baseline of 15%. We've been working towards that, and we’ve accomplished that with several hundred new units. However, at the rate we're going, we're going to fall short. So the council is really looking at other ways to promote housing. We are looking at models that allowed us to build more units and maybe shift from a for-own model to a rental model. And we're also looking at our code and seeing how we can incentivize the private sector or even our nonprofit partners like Habitat for Humanity and Mountainlands [Community Housing Trust] to do more projects in Park City.

On accessory dwelling units and laws being considered in the Legislature:

They're actually allowed in most of Park City, so they're zoned for. The challenge with accessory dwelling units in Park City is they're mostly blocked by the HOAs. So the city allows it, but the HOA laws as an overlay don't allow it. Council does feel like they're a good tool. [ADUs are] something we're supportive of, however, we are not at all supportive of the current piece of legislation — H.B. 82 by [Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful].

It's frustrating for us when the legislature tries to come up with one size fits all roles that they overlay across the state because every community has slightly different needs. So when the legislature comes in with a one size fits all override, it generally is going to have unintended consequences, which in the case of the short term rentals, makes the problem worse. As it stands, I like the spirit of the bill — that we need to promote accessory dwellings in Utah. But I think it needs to be done with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.

Stories Referenced:

Bills Referenced:

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.