Ken Minor 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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
Ken Minor

You’ve touched one of my political nerves with this one. This may need to be edited down.

Housing for locals in Moab is indeed in a crisis state and I do not use that word lightly. I have worked with a number of people that have lost their housing and been forced out of town due to the high prices. Some to the valley, some to La Sal or Green River. I lost a great long term employee who just couldn’t afford to live in the Moab area anymore. We have single family residences in Moab housing two and three families due to the high cost of rent.

How can we close the gap between income and the cost of housing? If we foster a diverse business friendly environment then we may help the income side a bit, but the best thing that the city can do at this point is lower housing prices by enabling a greater supply of affordable housing.

I think we all recognize that the cost of land in Moab is just going to increase. We also realize that we need to provide more affordable housing in the city. Simply forcing our lower income workforce to live farther and farther from work is not acceptable. I know families that don’t have cars. I know families that do, but struggle with the costs. I know families that simply would rather walk or ride a bike to work and to shop.

Nobody seems to want higher density housing in their neighborhood, I understand that.

I love the feel of old Moab with its open yards and spaces. I was raised on a small farm where we had lots of room and space. I have watched the subdivisions swallow the farmland around us. I watched as Mom had to sell most of her farmland as her medical costs grew. I was saddened to watch houses sprout where our garden used to grow.

However, as I look at it from this side of history, those developments were well-planned and have added to the community. The housing provided to families has been a benefit and the neighborhoods are a good thing. We need to build new high-density neighborhoods and integrate well planned higher density housing into some of our existing ones. We need to zone more areas for apartment complexes, tiny homes, and other high-density housing options.

I believe that we can work with local businesses to allow them affordable options to provide workforce housing. However, I do not feel it is appropriate to mandate that they do so.

I do not believe that the city should levy a property tax unless it were to become absolutely necessary to provide basic services. I would work to reduce the budget before supporting a city property tax. One small reason is that it would just make local housing more expensive. How does raising the cost of housing make rent go down?

The main reason though is that if we added a new revenue stream now, the city would simply find a good way to spend it and we would become dependent upon it. Then if the sales tax revenues were to dramatically decrease, what would we do then? I am definitely not in favor of a city property tax.