City PC, public discuss barriers to affordable housing
by Jeff Richards
contributing writer
May 26, 2011 | 2497 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Approximately a dozen existing barriers to affordable housing were discussed during a special workshop meeting of the Moab City Planning Commission last Thursday evening, May 19.

A total of about 20 people attended the two-hour meeting, including Moab City Manager Donna Meztler, city planning director Jeff Reinhart, city council member Kirstin Peterson, members of the city planning commission, and about a dozen members of the public.

Although no formal action was taken during the meeting, planning commission chairwoman Kelly Thornton said the input from the public will help the commission finalize the list and use that list to help identify possible solutions that could help mitigate the existing barriers to affordable housing in the community.

“It’s a good start,” said Thornton, who noted that the planning commission’s purpose in creating the list was merely to “identify and document” barriers, and not to effect or recommend any code or policy changes.

The barriers that were identified and discussed during the meeting include: too-large lot sizes, too-wide lot widths, density (number of dwellings per acre), minimum home sizes, street widths, setbacks, open space requirements, building height restrictions, issues regarding master planned developments, regulations for secondary dwellings, inflexible sidewalk standards, and lack of discretionary zoning that would allow housing of mixed economic levels to co-exist in neighborhoods.

Reinhart presented a slideshow listing the barriers and some concerns associated with each one. Among the various concerns listed were crime, noise, appearance, parking, safety, privacy, and property values.

Reinhart said that “affordable housing” is defined as housing where the resident or tenant spends no more than 30 percent of his or her gross household income on housing (rent or mortgage and basic utilities), particularly for households earning less than 80 percent of the state-defined median income in the area (AMI). Grand County’s AMI as of 2008 was defined by the state as being $47,000-$49,000, Reinhart said.

“Much of these decisions are market driven,” said planning commission member Jeanette Kopell, adding that developers in general are not open to alternative options unless those options are commercially viable.

A central point of discussion during the meeting was how smaller home and smaller lot sizes could be beneficial to homeowners themselves and the community at large.

Moab resident Emily Niehaus, who shared several ideas during the meeting, called the brainstorming session “promising” and said she’d like to see additional affordable housing options in the Moab area.

“It’s looking outside the box to solve the problem,” added Moab resident Charlotte Mates. “That opens up a lot of possibilities.”

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