Kalen Jones responds to three housing questions

The Times-Independent asked each of the ten remaining candidates for Moab City Council three questions regarding housing and taxation. Seven of the candidates responded, two of them after press time. Here is a link to the full story.

Kalen Jones

How do you plan to close the gap between rents and incomes in Moab? Is the right approach to raise incomes, lower rents, or both? How would you do either of those things?

I think the right approach is to increase the supply of housing for people that live and work in Moab, both developed as affordable for those who cannot afford market rate housing, and market rate units that are limited to occupancy by residents. For the former I look forward to continuing to support the City’s own Walnut Lane redevelopment from low-standard trailer court to modern apartments serving residents in a range of incomes. I will defend the City’s assured housing (WAHOO) policy which we passed in 2018, which requires new lodging to offset the below-market housing demand it generates. I will help develop a market rate tool to retain the social fabric of Moab’s neighborhoods by ensuring that a significant number of existing houses remain occupied by full time residents. Modelled on the Vail Indeed program, it would build on primary residency deed restrictions that my partners and I voluntarily implemented at a Moab housing development. 

A significant reason the city has unaffordable rents is low-density housing. Much of the city is zoned for single-family houses, which are unaffordable for most residents. The zones for apartment complexes and other high-density housing options are severely limited. Do you view this as a problem? How would you address it?

Most of the land within Moab city limits is currently developed to some extent, but much of the land downtown at a density significantly less than the current zoning permits. The residential zones outside of the city core also have potential for incremental additional density under the existing city code. My goal will be to facilitate residential development to increase access to housing for residents, retain the valued form and social qualities of existing neighborhoods, In addition to the residential specific actions, above, I think the city can facilitate downtown commercial redevelopment to make better use of the vertical potential for housing, as well as business diversification.

I will revisit PAD, as well as other development types, standards to moderate the impact of higher density (re)development on existing neighborhoods, while still providing enough of an incentive for our much needed affordable housing to get built. Accessory dwelling units could be a significant addition to the housing stock without altering neighborhood character; I will revisit the ADU code provisions to remove unnecessary barriers to such development. 

The City of Moab does not directly benefit from increasing property values because it does not levy a property tax, making it largely dependent on tourism for tax revenue. Should the city levy a property tax? Explain.

I, and the rest of the city council and some staff, will be actively engaged in the current state level discussions about possibly dramatic changes to sales taxes. Depending on state legislative action, City sales tax revenue may decline significantly, forcing a re-evaluation of the current level of service the city provides versus tax burden on residents. The advantage of funding via sales tax is that the tourist contribution is maximized. The city has a significant infrastructure maintenance backlog. Much progress has been made with the new wastewater treatment plant and 100 West work. Proper incremental maintenance will require additional revenue, which may entail consideration of Moab joining almost all other Utah cities in generating some of its funding via property tax. That said, I will fight to retain the benefits of the current sales tax structure, and support staff in aggressively pursuing grants and favorable loan terms to minimize any additional tax burden on residents.