For Jason Glidden, Housing Development Director for Park City, Utah, the best path to creating more affordable housing in the community was clear: make it financially rewarding for developers.
“We looked at it through the developers’ eyes,” he said. “Why aren’t they making affordable housing? They can’t make money on it. We need to help them [do that] by reducing their costs, so they don’t have to charge as much.”
This strategy has been successful thus far, he said. Last Friday, Glidden came to Ketchum’s Community Library to tell residents of the Wood River Valley what has worked in Park City, and, along with Ketchum Housing Director Carissa Connelly, answer questions about what might be expected in the Wood River Valley.
“We were getting in our own way. We were very particular about how we wanted every building to look; that [process] adds costs,” Glidden said. “It helps to [have similar] materials [around town], but there are benefits” to building cheaper.
He outlined several code changes that Park City underwent and that Ketchum might want to consider too. Park City adjusted what Glidden referred to as their housing “levers.”
These lever adjustments include raising maximum number of allowable stories, reducing setbacks, decreasing open space requirements and cutting back on parking requirements per unit.
Glidden said the parking changes made the biggest difference.
“The most important thing we looked at was parking. Parking is the number one cost prohibitor of affordable housing and development,” he said.
That doesn’t mean, as he and Connelly emphasized, that cities should get rid of parking all together. There were a couple of questions at the end of the discussion from Ketchum residents with concern for the parking stock in the city. City Administrator Jade Riley said that, per a recent study by parking consultants, Ketchum has enough stock as is, and will continue to explore building more at publicly owned properties across the city. A Mountain Express article from last week outlined these efforts.
Glidden said in order for multi-family units to get a reduction in parking in Park City, they had to meet criteria like having indoor, locked bike storage for each tenant, or sit within a quarter mile of a bus stop. This ensures that those who are spared parking have other methods to travel throughout town.
“When we started playing with parking numbers, it’s amazing how quickly those project costs started coming down,” Glidden said.
He said that parking makes up a large portion of total project costs. Recent discussions in Ketchum seem to bear that out. Last week, at a joint meeting between the Ketchum City Council and Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency, the city tabbed a potential project at the First Street and Washington Avenue lot as costing as much as $180,000 per parking space—subject to change based on the rising costs of materials and labor. In total, the proposed parking portion of the First and Washington construction could cost more than $10 million. Ketchum City Council was in agreement that the price is simply too much for substantial public parking at First and Washington.
Glidden also discussed short-term rentals and second homes, which are common in both resort communities. In Park City, homes that meet either of the above categories are categorized as vacant. By that metric, 70% of homes in Park City are vacant. In Ketchum, that figure was 59% in 2021. That means most of the workforce comes from out of town. In Park City, 15% of the workforce lives in town. In Ketchum, only 8.5% of the workforce lives inside the city limits.
As Glidden explained, that dynamic makes a commonly used metric, Average Median Income, or AMI, a bit misleading. Instead, he said, more weight should be given to the workforce wage, which quantifies the income of the workforce, many of whom live out of town.
“In Park City, 8,800 people drive into town each day to work. If we’re trying to target a workforce [for affordable housing], we need to know what the workforce is making versus what the area is making,” Glidden said.
The difference in figures is staggering. In Park City, the AMI for a family of three is $108,720. But the median workforce wage for a family of three is $63,600. Sixty-seven percent of the workforce in Park City earns $40,000 or less.
“When we started building affordable housing, we were targeting 80% AMI, and we thought we were doing the right thing,” Glidden said. “Well, 80% AMI isn’t affordable when your workforce is making 58% of AMI. [We were] missing [our] target.”
Park City had a particular problem with short-term rental stock replacing long-term rentals, driving up the price of the small number of remaining long-term units. In Ketchum, short-term rentals were previously thought to be a significant problem, but the issue was proven to be much less consequential earlier this year. In 2022, the first year of registration for short-term rentals in Ketchum, only 276 short-term rental licenses were given out. Park City, which has around 2.5 times as many households as Ketchum, tabs its number of STRs at around 2,400, per a report by Ketchum from late last month. In an effort to convert some of the short-term rentals into long-term or seasonal rentals, Ketchum implemented the Lease to Locals program last fall. This program pays cash incentives to homeowners who convert their short-term rentals to longer-term housing for local workers.
Unfortunately, some of the methods undertaken in other mountain communities to promote affordable, workforce housing are not allowed in Idaho. Connelly said that Idaho is one of the the only states in the country without the following: inclusionary zoning (legal requirements to build affordable housing in any multi-unit market rate project), rent control, a real estate transfer tax, a vacant home tax, or state tax incentives for affordable housing. Utah also bans real estate transfer taxes. Glidden shared how impactful a rule like that can be. Aspen, Colorado has been able to use real estate transfer tax to generate about $20 million for affordable housing, he said.
Another method being pursued in Park City that Ketchum plans to adopt is the promotion of Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs. ADUs are secondary structures on a property that can be used to host guests or long-term renters. Ketchum has been conducting a campaign to educate the public on their value in the midst of a housing crisis, although the city hopes to enact more policies that directly promote them.
One unique partnership in Park City that could work in the Wood River Valley involves trading a highly coveted item—a season pass to the ski mountain—for housing. In Park City, business owners who facilitate housing for one of their employees are given a season pass to Deer Valley. Glidden said he expects this program—which started last winter with a dozen members—to have as many as 50 participants next season.
One question from the audience was whether the two cities have pursued philanthropic partnerships as a source of funding. In Ketchum, the Wood River Community Housing Trust, a 501 ©(3) organization, was founded in 2021 for this reason. Cofounder Mary Wilson explained that they have been working to leverage private funds since.
One problem that is starting to show in Park City is a drop in public school enrollment, especially in younger grades. Glidden said that trend is concerning, because it might indicate that the parents of younger children are unable to afford to stay in Park City.
Glidden said that a large misconception about affordable housing is that simply building more housing can solve the problem.
“People said we could let the free market solve this and build more housing. So we started digging into it a little bit,” he said.
From December 2019 to December 2022 more than 100,000 residential permits were issued in Park City, the most in a three year period ever. Glidden said the increased supply did not result in cheaper housing. In 2021-2022, sales prices went up 35%. The next year, they went up 17%. He said that’s good if your goal is return on investment, but not good for building a healthy community.
“There isn’t a silver bullet to this problem,” Connelly said. “It’s more like silver buckshot.” ￼
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Park City is just an extension of Salt Lake in the mountains. It’s so sad. We had a home there and it’s become a metropolis in the mountains. Here’s what you do: make note of everything Glidden recommends then do the OPPOSITE. There’s a reason Ketchum and Sun Valley have design guidelines, dark skies policies and stringent standards. Protect what we have. Park City is not to be envied….only pitied.
Its a wages problem as much as a housing problem. The market will adjust (just as it has for the last 20 years of hand-wringing here). If local government wants to intervene in market mechanisms, then how about a minimum living wage regime? Better for workers, less subsidies to private employers, less government staff to run. AND - why would we EVER wish to emulate Park City???
We do t even go to Park City anymore. It’s just too crowded to be enjoyable. Perhaps that’s not the wisest town to replicate. As the saying goes “ if you want to fail in this life do what what works for someone else…because they’re not you” . Take the time to evaluate nd determine best practice for our area.
Welcome to the discussion.