Box Elder County officials are looking at using a parcel of county-owned land to create affordable housing options for public safety employees, teachers, and others who are finding themselves priced out in some parts of Utah.
At its most recent meeting, the county commission discussed a possible project to provide housing for people who work in critical services. While the project could be years away, officials are exploring ways to keep those employees in the county by providing affordable options before the local real estate market becomes too expensive for them.
The county has a 40-acre parcel of land south of Bear River City that it is eyeing for the project, which is still in the early discussion stages.
“We’re talking about using that land and bringing in a developer to be able to start doing some housing services like fire, police, deputies,” Commissioner Stan Summers said.
He said the idea came about through discussions with Sheriff Kevin Potter last year, when the commission was working on getting raises for the sheriff’s department to keep them from leaving for higher-paying jobs in other areas.
“It’s been beneficial having our deputies live in our communities,” Commissioner Jeff Hadfield said.
Potter said he recently visited with law enforcement agencies in Park City and Moab, two of the most expensive housing markets in the state. Those places have been implementing similar programs in their jurisdictions, but Box Elder County would like to be more proactive about it and get something done before prices get out of hand.
“It’s become to expensive to live there and deputies are having long commutes,” Potter said. “They all said it was a great idea. They wished they had done it before things got really bad.
“Even if you didn’t do anything but set aside the ground now and we could do something later, they all wish they had done that,” he told commissioners.
Summers said the county has access to some low-income housing funds through the Bear River Association of Governments that could potentially be used for such a project. He hopes to work with other county officials soon to put out a request to gauge potential interest from developers.
“We can talk later about whether they rent the houses, build the house and give them the lot for free or something,” he said. “I think throwing them a bone would be a pretty good reason (for them) to stick.”
In addition to law enforcement, he said the project could be available to those working in education, medical fields and other industries that provide critical services.
“We had 15 percent growth in the housing market last year in Box Elder County,” Summers said. “That’s a little crazy.”