Housing costs: ‘Beyond the reach’
SUMMIT COUNTY – A recently completed housing study provides a detailed blueprint for converting hard-won tax dollars into on-the-ground units for a burgeoning local population that has been increasingly priced out of the home-ownership market.Nothing in the RRC study came as a huge surprise, said combined housing authority director Bonnie Osborn. Rather, the data simply confirms much of the existing information. It should help define the exact type and location of units that are most needed by breaking down shortages basin by basin, Osborn said.Updating numbers from 1999, the study shows that the gap between incomes and home prices continues to grow steadily, putting “for-sale homes in Summit County … beyond the reach of locally employed residents.”In 1999, the median single-family home price was $317,500. According to the 2007 numbers, that has increased to an astounding $670,300. Incomes have not kept pace with that rise in home prices, so that the median home price in 2007 is about 851 percent higher than the median income ($78,800). In 1999, that gap was considerably smaller, with the median home price only 491 percent higher than the median income ($64,600).The study also quantifies the total demand at 4,468 units, with new jobs and an increase in the number of senior households pushing that number to about 7,000 units (owned and rental units combined) by 2012.Based on the information gathered during the survey, locals value community character above all else, encompassing such factors as family orientation, neighborhood appeal, proximity to places of employment, services and recreational amenities. About 75 percent of the residents who want to buy a home in Summit County are looking for small, single-family (two bedroom) homes with a base price of about $200,000.Balconies and decks were the most important amenities, followed closely by a desire for a two-car garage and a private yard. Locals are also thinking green tabbing energy efficiency as the fourth-ranked amenity out of 10 offered.The emphasis needs to be on building neighborhoods, not just on the number of units, the study concludes.The survey also asked specifically about the desirability of deed-restrictions on units that cap appreciation, with the option of buying out of the cap for $100,000. Just more than half the respondents said they would be inclined to pay the extra amount to remove the restrictions.The housing authority will use the information from the study to try and answer some basic policy questions, for example whether catch-up needs should be the highest priority; whether length of residency should be a key factor in determining eligibility and whether growth should be required to pay it own way by providing units for employees needed to fill new jobs.The study also takes a stab at quantifying the acreage needed for affordable housing in the various basins. Based on a density of 10 units per acre, 140 acres of land are needed in the Snake River Basin, 47 acres in the Lower Blue, 201 in the Tenmile Basin and 193 acres in the Upper Blue.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at email@example.com.
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