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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Considering affordable housing for gravel pit development

Oct 26, 2020 02:39PM ● By Cassie Goff

There should be about 42 affordable units in this space when new housing is developed.

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

The Planned Development District (PDD) was created and implemented in 2015 into the Cottonwood Heights City Code of Ordinances. Since then, only one development has taken use of it. Currently, applicants proposing a development for the north end of the area known as the Gravel Pit within the city have requested the written ordinance to be altered.

Specifically, they are requesting the Cottonwood Heights City Planning Department, Planning Commission, and City Council consider changes to the requirement of affordable housing. 

“Rockworth Development is requesting flexibility to how affordable housing is developed on that site,” said Community and Economic Development Director Michael Johnson.

Affordability is dependent upon standards set by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Per the Utah guidelines, affordable housing should be available to those who make 80% of the community’s area median income (AMI). This category of income level is considered low income. Very low income is considered those who make 31% to 50% of the AMI, and extremely low income is considered 30% or less of the AMI. (The area median income for Cottonwood Heights is $86,207.)

Currently, the PDD requires 10% of all developed units to be affordable based on 50% AMI, or very low income. For this specific project, out of 419 units 42 would need to be affordable.  

However, Rockworth Development reported that construction based on 50% AMI is very difficult because of the requirements involved with subsidizing funding. Instead, they are asking the city to consider some flexibility. A suggestion was made for allowing the requirement to be 80% AMI instead of 50% AMI matching state guidelines, so they would be able to offer more units. 

Based on projections from the U.S. Department of Human and Urban Development, the most need for housing units will occur between 2030 and 2040 for those earning 50% to 80% of the AMI. 

“Affordable housing is a priority in our community,” said Adam Davis from Rockworth Development. “We feel great about responding to every PDD ordinance requirement. We drafted our plan to meet every single one of the goals and have done everything we can to meet those goals.”

Rockworth Development has reached out to HUD for consideration of alternative funding but with the lack of certainty about the project’s timing, it was denied. (The owner of the gravel pit has said he plans to continue running the gravel pit operation until it is no longer profitable.) 

“If this issue was not raised by this applicant, would you have brought this back for review?” Mayor Mike Peterson asked Johnson.   

“Affordable housing was going to be addressed in the next update to the PDD,” said Johnson.