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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Affordable housing initiatives to affect 1 in 4 Cottonwood Heights residents

Nov 18, 2019 01:01PM ● By Cassie Goff

Cottonwood Heights is anticipated to experience a housing deficit of 590 units by 2050. (Cassie Goff/City Journals)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

By Dec. 1, every municipality within the state is required to amend their general plan to anticipate for moderate incoming housing growth. As mandated by the state legislature in (Senate Bill) S.B. 34, each municipality must implement at least three strategies (out of 23 available strategies) to account for moderate income housing. These strategies aim to fit the needs of renters and homeowners, living and working in communities. 

One of the goals behind this legislation is to allow for “people with various incomes to benefit from and participate in all aspects of neighborhood and community life,” said Cottonwood Heights Community and Economic Development Director Michael Johnson. 

The Dec. 1 deadline was set by the Affordable Housing Modifications bill. S.B. 34 was recommended by the Commission on Housing Affordability and sponsored by Sen. Jacob Anderegg and Rep. Val Potter. In February, Salt Lake Tribune reported that S.B. 34 was the legislature’s “most significant attempt thus far to address a statewide shortage of moderately priced homes.” 

On Nov. 5, Johnson gave a presentation to the Cottonwood Heights City Council explaining the three strategies Cottonwood Heights has chosen to implement and how city staff plans to proceed. 

Sen. Kathleen Riebe attended this meeting and spoke to the council about this implementation. “This is something that I voted for.  I think it’s really important that we have an opportunity for everyone that works in our community to live in our community. We’ve worked across the state and we’ve recognized there is a housing shortage for a very large group of people and we’re trying to mitigate that so it’s not beholden to one community to hold all those people.”  

The three strategies Johnson and his team chose include: “allow for higher density or moderate-income residential development in commercial and mixed-use zones, commercial centers or employment centers; implement zoning incentives for low to moderate income units on a long-term basis; and utilize a moderate-income housing set aside from a community reinvestment agency, redevelopment agency or community development and renewal agency.”

The first strategy was chosen because “it matches the long-range plan’s goal of incorporating mixed use for higher density residential development in specific areas. We will see progress on this, as a matter of what’s in the ordinance and general plan, predominantly along Fort Union Boulevard,” Johnson said. 

In adapting to these strategies, the Planned Development District (PDD) will be utilized. “In the PDD, developers are meant to have 10% housing requirement for low income,” Johnson said.

Another option the city will be pursuing is to partner and work with other entities to provide tax incentives and create funding for extremely low income housing units. 

In Cottonwood Heights, implantation of the strategies listed above will “primarily affect the 27% of Cottonwood Heights residents who have incomes at or below 80% the average medium income (AMI),” according to a Cottonwood Heights Affordable Housing Report studied by GSBS Architects.

“These changes account for the diverse range of housing for all income levels, especially as the population continues to grow,” Johnson said. 

“Cottonwood Heights is projected to grow from 34,117 [residents] in 2018 to 35,732 [residents] by 2050. At the city’s average household size of 2.74 persons per household, an additional approximately 590 housing units will be needed. If the current distribution of household incomes is assumed, the housing deficit in the extremely low income category will increase,” according to the Affordable Housing Report.

That report also states that in 2017, Cottonwood Heights was estimated to have 13,446 total housing units; 9,310 (74%) of those unites were owner occupied, 3,351 of those housing units (26%) were renter occupied. In the city, the average median income was reported at $86,207.

In comparison, Salt Lake County was estimated to have 356,060 households with an average medium income (AMI) of $67,922. Salt Lake City had 75,430 households with an AMI of $54,009. Murray had 18,735 households with an AMI of $57,662. 

According to a Utah Affordable Housing Forecast Tool (UAHFT) tool in 2016, 23% of all Cottonwood Heights households were cost-burdened, meaning “housing-related costs were more than 30% of gross income.”

Out of those 23% of cost-burdened households, 52% were renters. For a rental household, the median rent in the city was approximately $1,175 per month, affordable to households making approximately $47,000 annually.

The Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the City Council’s approval on this plan on Oct. 16. After the council votes on the implantation of these strategies, city staff members will submit a report to the Department of Workforce Services and post it on the city’s website. 

Moving forward, municipalities will be required to report on the progress of their chosen strategies to the state annually. In addition, they will be updating housing and demographic data every two years.