Housing study seeking community input

by David Boyle
News Director
San Juan County is conducting a Housing Needs Assessment. The assessment is being conducted by Points Consulting and is aimed at identifying housing demand in the area.
As part of the assessment, five public meetings will be held throughout the county from January 29 through February 1.
In an interview with Red Rock 92.7 County Economic Development Director Elaine Gizler explained for over two and a half years she’s heard repeatedly from the community that there’s not enough housing in San Juan County. With help from a grant from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, the county hired Points Consulting to conduct that report.
Brian Points of Points Consulting says while it's apparent that there is a housing shortage the report will have more texture to it than that.
“What types of units would people want that aren’t being provided? Are those tighter, denser? Are they rentals, condos? There’s a lot of variation within the housing market and the housing market in the US for various reasons over the past 50 years has become pretty monoculture. In the sense that it's either low-density single-family or high density multi-family. Turns out those options don’t actually serve a lot of people and are becoming increasingly less likely to serve people with some of the macro-economic changes we’ve had in income levels, inflation, building patterns, and those kinds of things.”
Points adds the report will help fill in knowledge gaps, specifically a level that people can afford, which location marks sense, the style, density, and other factors. The report may also have recommendations for zoning, and is intended to provide transparency to not just governments but outside developers and builders.
Points added these types of reports are used for both private sector and government response.
“States, like Utah, have certain funds set aside to help with projects related to affordable housing but they need to see evidence that’s not anecdotal. So a feasibility housing study is what they need to see in order to help justify that, then it helps them target what the project should look like.”
For the private sector Points says once a report is completed they’ve often heard from developers.
”(They) say we went to your presentation, we read your report, we're thinking of doing this thing. Does this seem to make sense to you? Sometimes we say yes, sometimes we say no. That's the kind of help and input we’re hoping to provide.”
Points adds that with a low population density, San Juan County would be benefited by even just a few projects.
“To see 20 new homes would be the equivalent of 1,000 new homes in a big metropolitan area. That’s the good news is that a seemingly not very big change can make a big difference for these smaller communities.”
The first housing assessment public meeting will take place at the Hideout Community Center in Monticello from 6-8:30 pm on January 29 for residents of Monticello and Ucola.
On January 30 a meeting will take place at the La Sal Community Center from 1-3 pm for residents of Spanish Valley and La Sal. Later that evening a meeting will be held in the Blanding City Council Chambers from 6-8:30 pm for residents of Blanding, Westwater and White Mesa. On January 31 a meeting will be held at the Bluff Community Center from 10:00 am to Noon for residents of Bluff, Aneth, Montezuma Creek and surrounding areas in the county. A final public meeting will be held on February 1 at the Monument Valley Welcome Center from 10:00 am to Noon for residents in Monument Valley and the surrounding areas.
Points says the meetings should be fairly conversational.
“It’s our primary means of doing qualitative research. We’ll have a few slides with some data and some prompting-type questions. What does this mean to you? What gaps do you see? What pressures have you or people in the community seen because of these issues?”
Gizler emphasized the importance of having public input.
“Your voice is really important, we need to hear your feedback, you’ll weigh in on this housing assessment, we just need as much attendance as we possibly can have at every meeting and we appreciate anyone who’s going to come out and help support this project.”
Gizler added the completed project will not only be shown to developers, builders and state legislature, but that the county also wants to bring the results to tribal leaders in Window Rock as the housing shortage includes all parts of the county.
“The findings that will occur will help us to meet and partner to say we listened to the community here in Utah and these are our findings. How can we partner, and help to make people's lives better? That is our goal, how do we provide and help support (the Navajo Nation) realizing they’ve got their own way of managing their sovereign nation. How can we partner and help residents that reside in Utah.”
Points and the county plan to have a virtual attendance option at least for the Blanding meeting. Additional information about the public meetings can be found online at SJCUtahEconomicDevelopment.com and the county economic development Facebook page. The group hopes to have the study completed in May.

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