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Millcreek Journal

Millcreek responds to population boom with new affordable housing incentives

Nov 01, 2022 08:16PM ● By Sara Milano

By Sara Milano | [email protected]

At the Sept. 26 Millcreek City Council meeting, councilmembers voted unanimously to amend the town’s moderate income housing plan. This motion included adding several new amendments to the city’s existing Moderate Income Housing (MIH) plan, which is tailored toward residents who earn less than 80% of the area median income.

During the last legislative session, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill requiring cities to select a minimum of four strategies to expand access to moderate income housing. As an enforcement mechanism to ensure towns do this, the state “has indicated that state funding for various things such as the TIF, the transportation and improvement fund, will be tied to the progress cities make on affordable housing,” Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said. Accordingly, the more MIH strategies a town implements, the more priority that municipality will get for state funding. Conversely, if a town fails to adopt enough MIH strategies, they will not get priority funding and may not receive any at all.

Millcreek has already enacted its Millcreek Together General Plan, written in 2019 to guide the city’s planning policy for the next 10 to 20 years. Due to the existence of the general plan, most of the selected MIH strategies have already been implemented by Millcreek, making it easier to satisfy the legislature’s requirements.

City Planning Manager Robert May gave a presentation on his proposed amendments to the MIH plan, which include nine possible strategies for increasing access to affordable housing. He explained that the language in many of the strategies was “intentionally vague” so that Millcreek can make progress toward its affordable housing goals without being responsible for meeting a specific target or timeline.

The first three of the proposed strategies include rezoning for densities that allow for MIH, encouraging the building of and reducing regulations for row houses and cottage homes, and rezoning for MIH in commercial and mixed-use areas. The second strategy was amended from language that focused on Accessory Dwelling Units after hearing feedback from the Mt. Olympus Community Council and the Planning Commission that expressed concerns about ADUs. The Millcreek Community Council opposed the first two strategies as members felt that the city was already doing enough for affordable housing.

The next three strategies proposed and adopted by the council are eliminating parking requirements in areas where residents may have restricted access to cars, developing a Station Area Plan, and incentivizing MIH in new housing developments by using zoning ordinances. The strategy related to parking requirements is geared toward areas near major transportation hubs or senior living facilities where residents may rely on transit methods other than cars. The Station Area Plan refers to areas within one half-mile of public transit stations. The Millcreek Community Council also opposed rezoning to incentivize MIH in new developments, again citing Millcreek’s previous efforts to zone for affordable housing.

The final strategies before the council are working with a partner to apply for funding or tax incentives to promote the construction of MIH, reducing or eliminating fees associated with the construction of MIH, and amending land use regulations to allow for affordable housing near commercial corridors of Millcreek. Both the Mt. Olympus Community Council and East Millcreek Community Council expressed misgivings about waiving development fees for MIH. They feared that waiving or reducing such fees could hurt the tax base and create perverse incentives for developers. The council assured residents that these strategies were designed to make developments more affordable, not make developers richer.

After agreeing on slight changes to the language of some strategies to allow for more flexibility, each councilmember voted to adopt the amendments to the Moderate Income Housing plan. The plan outlines five-year goals for the city’s promotion of affordable housing, with annual reports that track progress on implementation and goals. Silvestrini noted the importance of affordable housing now that Utah is the fastest growing state in the country, and said that “Millcreek is a leader in affordable housing,” and would remain as such.