Payson Council Adopts Plan To Answer Wage, Housing Cost Disparity

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When the Payson Town Council adopted an affordable housing plan Thursday evening, it made a commitment to find answers to the income and the housing disparities of the town.

Councilors said it is a matter of addressing work force and affordable housing -- separate but related issues -- the dearth of rental units, and the solutions that best fit Payson.

To accomplish this mission, town staff and the mayor's affordable housing task force spent five months assembling a report for council approval.

Town housing program manager, Bethany Beck, presented the council with the findings and solutions of the cooperative effort.

"We have a long road ahead of us," she said. "We're behind the eight-ball. We are running out of land and we are running out of time. That's why we have to act now."

To facilitate the process, the report proposed a council-appointed Affordable Housing Commission. Mayor Bob Edwards asked Croy to maintain an ad hoc format. Then, he said, the group could operate without the barriers of open meeting laws and the expense of town administrative support. Edwards also asked that advisory committee include representatives from other areas of the Rim Country. Affordable housing, he said, is a regional issue.

But Croy said he supported the formation of an official commission -- one that represents a townwide pledge to its residents.

"Making a permanent commission makes a commitment to this issue," Croy said. "What we're looking for is a commitment from the mayor and the council."

Vice Mayor Tim Fruth supported the proposal. He admonished town staff to act on its recommendations.

"Where do we go from here?" Fruth said. "I would encourage us not to put it on a shelf."

Community Development Director Jerry Owen agreed with Fruth and said he would provide direction and reinforce progress.

"This empowers staff and the task force to create some of these vehicles," Owen said. "We have to follow up with action items. I think you'll see that we will."

But not everyone in the audience agreed with Beck's report.

Mike Foil, a local real estate appraiser, said a hot real estate market and the extremes of Payson's housing stock have skewed the numbers. Averaging the cost equation with the selling prices of multimillion dollar homes provides an inaccurate perception of reality, he said. The answers to work force and affordable housing lie in the creation of more rental units. That prevents homeowners who benefit from housing programs to turn around and sell for fair market value.

"You can control the rents," he said.

In the coming months, town staff and the task force will solidify its plan to move forward and research options that will fit Payson and possibly surrounding communities.

Download the Affordable Housing Task Force report (PDF - 11.6 MB)

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