From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 103, Number 21 - January 25, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Stewart Land Group presents affordable housing vision to town council
Federal tax credit program could provide apartments to low, middle income families
by Annie O’Brien

At the Jan. 22 Pinedale Town Council meeting, representatives from Stewart Land Group presented a tentative plan to transform roughly 60 acres of property on the western edge of Pinedale into an affordable housing development.

Sublette County has experienced a dearth of affordable housing in recent years, due in large part, to an increasing population that has accompanied the oil and gas boom. Kerry Winn, Vice President of Operations for Stewart Land Group, said his company planned to create apartment buildings to meet Pinedale’s housing demands. Apartments allow developers to build more housing units on less land, thereby reducing costs. Stewart has helped developers build affordable housing units in places like Park City, UT and Sun Valley, ID, where high prices have prevented many residents from finding a place to live. Stewart hopes to gain a commercial zoning ordinance on about 20 acres of the property, to allow for business development. The company plans to request a residential zoning ordinance on the remaining 40 acres, according to Winn.

The property will be developed by Wolper Construction, a Salt Lake City-based contractor, represented by Stewart. Winn would not disclose the owner of the property, located near the future Stromness Building. Winn told the town council that rental rates in the proposed development could be kept low by taking advantage of a federal tax credit program, called the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. The program provides incentives, in the form of tax credits, to developers and banks to encourage them to offer homes that fall below the market price. Apartments falling under this tax credit program may possess deed restrictions, which would require lessors to maintain rental pricing for up to 30 to 50 years, and would forbid them from selling the property. Winn hoped 30 to 50 housing units could be set aside for such a program.

To qualify for a space in the affordable housing development, renters would have to submit proof of their income. Winn estimated that a family with a yearly income of $12,000 could qualify for a two bedroom, fully amenitized apartment for a cost of $450 per month. A family earning $40,000 annually might qualify for a $700/month apartment, Winn claimed.

Winn insisted the development would not bring a housing project, like the large, infamous complexes in urban areas, to Pinedale. “This is not a HUD [Housing and Urban Development] home. This is not a subsidized institution,” he said. To qualify to live in one of the development’s apartments, applicants must be employed, have a solid credit rating and may not have a felony record.

If part of the property is zoned for commercial development, Winn said, the development would support businesses, creating a “walkabout community.” Residents could shop and dine close to their apartments. Many young families only own one car, Winn stated, and this kind of self-contained community makes it possible for one spouse to drive to work, and the other to manage the home without needing a second vehicle. The new development could further relieve Pinedale’s housing crunch by lessening the demand for free market homes, Winn argued.

Winn acknowledged the development might meet with opposition. “We understand we represent change to the community,” he said, but added the plan would reduce sprawl and could be annexed by the town. If the development company receives its requested zoning ordinances, it will will begin work on the buildings’ foundations by the end of summer 2007. The contractor would only build some of the planned apartments during the initial construction phase, and would base future development plans on market demands, Winn said.

Council member Nylla Kunard asked Winn if his company had considered creating a “well-regulated trailer park.” A mobile home park, Kunard said, could be completed more quickly than other types of developments. Council member Gary Hueck warned the Stewart representatives they might face resistance from citizens and groups concerned with preserving open spaces for wildlife. The land up for development lies in the middle of an antelope corridor, Hueck claimed. “There’ll be some of them raising Cain about this,” Hueck said.

Winn responded, “We’re going to develop and we’re going to change the use of farmland to develop something that’s good for the city.”

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