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New affordable apartments come to this Utah community, where an average home sells for $3 million

Officials break ground at 1875 Homestack Road to create 99 affordable apartments by mid-2025.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Park City Mayor Nann Worel speaks at the groundbreaking for EngineHouse, the newest affordable housing project in Park City on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023.

This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

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Park City • Few communities face as desperate a crunch for workforce housing as Utah’s showcase ski resort town-turned-worldwide attraction.

Beneath fiery colors of autumn foliage, officials in Park City broke ground Wednesday on its biggest cluster of affordable apartments to date and its first foray into public-private partnerships with developers as a way to make much-needed homes happen.

The project is called EngineHouse. When completed in June 2025, it will be a four-story, V-shaped building tucked back on nearly two acres of city-owned land formerly covered in asphalt at 1875 Homestake Road, near Kimball Art Center.

(J. Fisher Companies via Park City) A recent rendering of EngineHouse, a new public-private housing complex with 99 affordable apartments to be built at 1875 Homestake Road in Park City.

The new complex with lots of promised tenant amenities will also be home to families who most likely couldn’t afford Park City living otherwise.

For the next century — thanks to new city partnerships — EngineHouse will set aside 99 of its 123 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for renters making 60% of Summit County’s median wage. That’s the equivalent of about $62,400 a year in income for one person or $80,200 for a household of three.

Affordability in glitzy Park City

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Officials and project partners line up for the groundbreaking for EngineHouse, the newest affordable housing project in Park City on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023.

For comparison, a one-bedroom rental at Park City’s market rates now runs upwards of $1,750 a month, according to sites like Trulia.com. There are dire stories of service workers enduring long commutes or packing into cramped living quarters to make do and employers struggling to recruit.

And after an explosive spate of pandemic-induced demand for housing across Summit and Wasatch counties followed by a slowdown, the median sales price for a single-family home was hovering around $3.2 million as of September.

A recent report deemed Utah’s current housing markets the least affordable in a 50-year history. But affordability carries different connotations in Park City.

Park City Mayor Nann Worel said only 15% of the city’s workforce lives within city limits, with nearly 11,000 commuting in and out daily to serve millions of yearly visitors along with roughly 8,500 residents.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Park City Mayor Nann Worel speaks at the groundbreaking for EngineHouse, the newest affordable housing project in Park City on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. She said said only 15% of the city’s workforce lives within city limits, which makes more affordable housing critically important.

“We’re a unique community,” Worel said in an interview, “in that we have more workers come in to serve our visitors and our residents than we have full-time residents.”

A lack of affordable housing in the community and escalating prices have affected worker recruitment, the mayor said, and with new housing developments going in elsewhere around the county, “we want to remain competitive.”

How do cities help affordability? “Tremendous commitment.”

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Local developer Rory Murphy speaks at the groundbreaking for EngineHouse, the newest affordable housing project in Park City on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023.

Worel joined nearly 100 people at the EngineHouse construction site for a groundbreaking celebration, including a ceremonial turning of dirt.

Along with city staff, she and others credited the experience and know-how of Centerville-based J. Fisher Companies and longtime Park City developer Rory Murphy, along with many government and nonprofit collaborators.

“You’ve been an amazing strong partner,” she told Murphy and officials with J. Fisher Companies, which both have specialities in affordable projects.

EngineHouse also drew financial backing from the nonprofit Utah Housing Corp. and the state’s Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund — as well as state and federal tax credits and lots of time and dedication. The developers were chosen in 2021 while financing of the project got wrapped up last month.

Ryan Davis, a top partner at J. Fisher, called the intervening two years of work on financing and development “a very long but successful road.”

“I’m humbled to be standing here,” he said.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ryan Davis, a partner with J. Fisher Development, speaks at the groundbreaking for EngineHouse, the newest affordable housing project in Park City on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. Financing and development of the affordable EngineHouse project took two years, he said.

Murphy called EngineHouse “a flagship project for Park City. This is exactly what the city needed, where it needed it.”

Added Worel: “It was a real learning experience for us. These kinds of projects and partnerships are complex, and they require tremendous commitment.”

The city, which bought the land in 2017, is contributing the former rail yard to the EngineHouse project in the form of a 99-year ground lease. The city, Worel noted, also paid to remediate tainted soil beneath the site.

Park City Affordable Housing Manager Jason Glidden said deed covenants made possible by the project’s public-private cooperation would keep the 99 units affordable for up to 100 years.

EngineHouse also pushes Park City closer to its own goal of building 800 affordable housing units by 2026.