City, county to host March 16 open house to discuss new affordable housing plan

Grand County and Moab city are hosting open houses to introduce the new Moab Area Affordable Housing Plan to the public. An upcoming open house on March 16, hosted by Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine and Moab Community Services Director Amy Weiser, will include discussion about housing goals for the local area and showcase two new websites with information and resources related to affordable housing.

“The sole purpose of these open houses is to make sure the public has ample opportunity to see how the plan was created, what it includes, and how the city and county will use it to guide future actions related to affordable housing,” Levine said.

Levine said the newly written Moab Area Affordable Housing Plan was an effort of the Interlocal Housing Task Force, Moab city, and Grand County. The plan had last been updated in 2009, he said.

Moab city recently adopted the document as part of its general plan, and Grand County is expected to vote on the matter soon.

In addition to providing a housing needs analysis and identifying barriers to affordable housing, the 2017 document outlines an “action plan” for municipalities and other entities to support the creation of affordable housing. Recommendations span policy, public outreach, professional development and projects.

Kaitlin Myers, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers working in the county’s community development department, said the action plan is the most important piece of the updated document, as it sets out recommendations “to tackle affordable housing issues over the coming years.”

Moab City Council and Interlocal Housing Task Force member Kalen Jones said there is definitely “work to do” in addressing future housing needs. He added that the plan directs both councils to set annual goals related to housing and complete the full recommendations by 2050.

“It sets the framework for future work and provides baseline data, which is helpful for us to refer to for those goal settings,” Jones said.

Although the county has not yet adopted the plan, Grand County Council chairwoman Jaylyn Hawks said that she is personally “very much in favor of it.”

“We need a multi-pronged approach and this is one of those prongs in order to make progress,” Hawks said.

The plan is available in its entirety online at: moabhousingplan.com.

“It has the exact same information as the formal document but is presented in a more graphic and easily understandable manner than a 60-page report,” said Myers, who created the website.

Levine said the 2017 plan, which identifies housing as “the backbone of every community,” was written with multiple audiences in mind, from citizens, to developers and elected officials.

“Interested citizens can use it to better understand the causes and effects of multiple interacting market trends. Developers will find recommendations and tools that can improve their ability to provide private-sector solutions. Public and elected officials can use it as a guide for future actions related to affordable housing in terms of studies, regulatory changes, budgeting and programming,” Levine said.

On the website, visitors can browse through local demographics, wages and jobs, as well find analyses regarding housing needs.

Myers also created a companion website — moabhousing.com — which serves as a guide to information and resources about housing. She estimates the website has close to 100 tools related to housing, and said it is continuously being updated.

On that site, visitors can find resources related to economic development, public health and sustainability.

“ … In a community like Moab, housing is economic development, but housing is also closely tied to issues of public health, energy and sustainability as well, so we have addressed those subjects on the website, too,” Myers said. “Part of the website is dedicated to providing information and news about affordable housing in the Moab area, but the bulk of the website is dedicated to providing tools, services, and resources that will hopefully be helpful in our community’s quest to tackle some of our problems.”

For more information about housing resources visit: moabhousing.com. For the 2017 Moab Area Affordable Housing Plan, visit: moabhousingplan.com.

An open house about the plan was held March 1, and another is slated for March 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Grand Center, 182 North 500 West. For questions about the upcoming open house, call the county at 435-259-1371 or the city at 435-355-0610.

ByBy Molly Marcello

The Times-Independent