Tawny Knuteson-Boyd 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.

Tawny Knuteson-Boyd

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 am not sure the Council has the power all by itself to close the gap, but we can implement measures that can assist residents and landlords and businesses alike in that goal. Certainly, there is not one easy simply fix. I think the PAD is one tool and if applied with thoughtfulness and some good planning it can help developers see how and where they can build housing that satisfies a need of some of our residents. The City can incentivize development that hastens new housing and we can look at streamlining permitting and the processes that slow down developers.

We are not able to tell private businesses how to structure their own employee pay and benefits, we can only be an example and strive to have the City be a competitive and good workplace. We did a salary survey a couple of years ago and implemented the recommendations of the consultant. It’s time to review that once again and make adjustments as needed. Likewise we don’t tell those who rent homes on a long term basis what they can charge, there are many conscientious homeowners who are also landlords who know what our situation is here and do their part to help our residents.  

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?

Single family homes on large spacious lots have long been the part and parcel of the American Dream, especially in the West because there was “a lot of land”. The number of people has caught up to the acres of land available for them to inhabit, the way we have for nearly a century. Smaller homes and lot sizes is one way to make a home more affordable for many people. Full disclosure I have a small home on 1/10th of an acre. I know people can co-exist even flourish in nice neighborhoods on much smaller lots than have been traditional.  

I often think the term “apartment building” or “apartment complex” is a bit intimidating to some. It doesn’t seem to be as intimidating if a duplex or a triplex is built on a vacant lot or if someone adds a basement or garage apartment to their existing home. We do need to make those types of homes more easily converted or permitted, even incentivized as I mentioned before.. We need to apply fair standards to them and make sure we maintain a sense of neighborhood and community.

I think about the apartments I lived in through my life and most were small little pockets in existing single family neighborhoods. The apartments and the residents were integrated and we were part of the greater community. Small (under 700 square foot 2 bedroom) duplexes and four-plexes were where I made dear friends, I still cherish today. We were neighbors 30 or 35 years ago.

There are some parcels of land within Moab that a larger building is reasonable and would work well. We do need to listen more thoughtfully when we have a developer come to us with a proposal that is not traditional and work with them to make their visions happen. It’s my understanding there have been several proposals over the last several years that have been pitched and were shot down for one technicality or another. We need to use the creative part of our brains and figure out how they can work, not why they won’t.  

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.

No one likes taxes, especially not new taxes. To this point, Moab has managed pretty well with the tax structure we utilize currently. That, as we know could change depending on what the legislature does with their tax reform. I would like to see TRT reassessed and free it up for more diverse and more pressing issues. I know sometimes councils are forced to make decisions about taxes that are not popular, we have to look at the big, big picture. I’m not anxious to enact a property tax and I really don’t want City residents to be hit twice for the same thing, which is how I think most residents will feel. City residents currently don’t pay a property tax to the City. they do indeed pay property tax that is assessed by the County. This one needs some deeper diving and much more thought and discussion before we simply levy a new tax.