Summit County Commissioners discuss ways to encourage affordable housing developments

The Village at Wintergreen apartments in Keystone are pictured Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Summit County Commissioners are looking at ways to improve the county’s housing code so developers have an incentive to build more affordable housing.
Jason Connolly/For the Daily News Summit

Proposed amendments to Summit County’s housing code could mean more affordable housing for a wider range of workers.

County planners presented the amendments to commissioners at a business meeting on Tuesday, April 5. The overarching goal of the changes is to diversify the county’s housing stock and incentivize affordable housing developers to build projects in Summit County.

Many of the changes are for “low-hanging fruits,” said lead planner Jessica Potter. According to the Combined Summit Housing Authority.

This policy allows the county to incentivize housing for very low-income people, but it does not provide much flexibility for affordable housing for middle-income people. Planners have proposed raising the limit to 100% of area median income or $96,100 for a family of four and a rent limit of $1,802.50 per month for a one-bedroom unit.

County officials hope the increased income limit would encourage developers to build more affordable housing in the county. Often, developers can only afford to build units at 60% of the area’s median income if they are already funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, a federal program that gives developers tax credits for the construction of affordable units.

“We’ve had concrete examples where private developers want to build housing for the workforce, but the current code says they have to charge 60% (area median income) and it’s just untenable to do it,” housing director Jason Dietz said.

Commissioners would like to see this limit raised further to ensure people of all incomes have affordable housing. The 100% limit includes many of the starting salaries for labor positions, but it doesn’t leave much wiggle room beyond that.

For example, Summit School District teachers start at 85% of area median income, Summit County Sheriff’s Office police officers start at 105% of area median income, and firefighters start at 100% of area median income. median of the region. However, other professions, such as nurses and paramedics, have starting salaries over 100% and would not qualify for housing, according to figures presented by Commissioner Tamara Pogue. Yet they are also unlikely to be able to buy homes at market price.

“We no longer have upward mobility in Summit County,” Pogue said. “You walk into a restricted deed house, you have to stay there because the next house is $2 million.”

Commissioners have suggested raising the limit to 170% of the area’s median income for rental units. However, some county officials are concerned that setting the median area income limit too high could discourage developers from building units at the lower end of the spectrum.

“If it says 170, the nature of trying to do a development and getting that much out of that development is going to make people do 170 on every project proposal,” County Executive Scott Vargo said.

Vargo recommended that curators and planners find a way to encourage low-income developments in code. Commissioners have floated the idea that the area’s median income requirement should be an average rather than a maximum, requiring developers to price their units so that they average the income figure median of the 100% zone.

Planners introduced a number of other changes to the code that would add flexibility to affordable housing. The changes included changes to unit size requirements, streamlining the building permission process, allowing caretaker units for affordable housing, and changing parking requirements for developments.

Commissioners will continue to discuss the proposed changes and housing goals at future meetings. Pogue also requested that planners conduct another housing needs assessment to ensure county officials know exactly what local workers are going through.

“Nobody feels like there’s a surplus of housing,” Pogue said. “Anything you come back with really needs to be designed in terms of helping developers build affordable housing for our workforce at all (area median income).”


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