Washington City considers program waiving impact fees for affordable housing projects

A construction worker walks along the top of an apartment complex under construction in Washington City, Utah, Feb. 18, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY — As a part of a plan to promote attainable housing within the city, Washington City officials are considering implementing a program that would waive impact fees for qualifying home-building projects.

Red Rock Apartments at Sienna Hills, an affordable housing development in Washington City, Feb. 18. 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Specifically, the city would waive fees up to $17,000 for the construction of a single-family home, with a limit of three such projects a year totaling $51,000.

“This is an effort to add to our current affordable housing plan to allow the waiver of up to three building permit’s impact fees … per budget year as budget allows,” Matt Loo, Washington City’s economic development director, told the City Council during it’s Feb. 12 work meeting.

The city’s current affordable housing plan was adopted in 2017. Under state law, municipalities and counties are to have such plans and are to occasionally update and revive them.

There is a long list of requirements someone must meet to be able to qualify for the waiver, Loo said. One of those is meeting 80% of the area median income (AMI).

In the St. George area, 80% of the AMI is around $43,200, with an estimated 42.5% of Washington County households falling into that bracket, according to the 2019 moderate income housing plan adopted by the city of St. George.

However, this amount can also fluctuate based on the size of the household, be it a single person of a family of four, Loo said.

Funds covering the impact fee waivers would come from the city’s general fund as available. That part of the general fund could come from Community Reinvestment Areas, or CRAs, Loo said.

The Washington City Council in session for a general meting, Washington City, Utah, Jan. 8, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

A CRA is an economic development tool used by municipalities and counties that provides property tax exemptions to property owners who renovate or build new buildings within the area. Washington City currently does not have any CRAs within its borders, yet is considering creating some in the area of Exit 13 and the mega site near the St. George Regional Airport.

It was proposed by Loo that 10% of the revenue generated from the CRAs be put into a fund supporting the impact fee waiver program. Funds would also be generated by sales tax.

There was discussion over whether or not the funds should be spread around in smaller increments, or given in the overall $17,000.

“I like the fact of waiving all of the fees for one person, because it gives them a lot bigger number to with with to help with affordability,” Councilman Craig Coats said. “If we give them $1,000 here and $1,000 there, I don’t think it’s really going to help them.”

Other council members said they liked the idea of there being a cap on how many homes could qualify for waivers initially.

“This is admittedly a starting point,” City Manager Roger Carter said. “It’s something to shoot at.”

The application process for the impact fee waivers would likely be vetted by a committee and given to the city manager who would then submit it to the City Council for pending approval, Loo said.

No action was taken on the proposed impact fee waiver plan by the council at the time.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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