Kaitlin Myers has been a strong local advocate for affordable housing throughout her time in Moab. She moved to Moab in 2016 to work for Grand County as an Americorps VISTA intern in the Community and Economic Development Department where she focused on affordable housing; the department later hired her into a full-time position. In 2019, she took a position with the City of Moab as project manager for an affordable housing development the city had taken on. In January she started a new role as executive director of the Moab Area Community Land Trust, a nonprofit actively creating more deed-restricted affordable housing in Grand County. The land trust received a large parcel as a donation in 2018 and has been working towards building an affordable subdivision called Arroyo Crossing in which the land is owned by the trust and the homes are owned by the residents. Construction began on the first Arroyo Crossing homes this past fall.
The Moab Sun News spoke with Myers about her background, her new position and what’s in store.
Moab Sun News: You’ve been a housing advocate in Moab for several years. How did you get interested in the field?
Myers: I graduated with a degree in architecture—I’d always been interested in housing, the design of housing, the creative side. I knew in 5th grade that I wanted to be an architect! I realized in college that I didn’t actually care as much about how buildings are made, I cared more about how people interact with them, the planning and financing, the more theoretical, more development scale. When I was looking for jobs, I wanted to work at Community Rebuilds, but that VISTA position was already full. Someone suggested the county VISTA position related to housing. I knew I wanted to work in that world but I thought I wanted to work more in the Habitat for Humanity, design/build team environment. I ended up working for the county, and that was my first foray into planning and zoning.
MSN: What’s your history with the Moab Area Community Land Trust?
Myers: I was on the board of the land trust from February of 2017 to April of 2021, which was really exciting because I was along for the ride through the land donation and master planning and getting the new market tax credits to build up the infrastructure. I think that’s part of why I’m so excited and passionate about being in this position—in a lot of ways I have grown up alongside the land trust. I quit the board in April because I was starting a masters in real estate at Georgetown. It’s all online, all asynchronous. I started grad school in May. Because [the land trust board] is a working board, I had to cut some of my extracurriculars. I was still in school while working for the city, too, juggling work and school at the same time. I’m happy to be taking this semester off.
MSN: What do you plan to do with your degree?
Myers: I’m going to pursue a concentration in development. The degree in general is focused on high level legal and financial concepts related to real estate. I started pursuing it while working at the city because I thought it would be useful for my job there. I realized the same skills would be useful for the land trust. I am scheduled to graduate in summer of 2023.
MSN: How did you decide to transition from the city to the land trust?
Myers: I’ve known since 2018 or 2019 that I wanted this job at the land trust, it’s been in my 5 to 10 year goals, but at that point the land trust was talking about hiring someone part-time and working their way up to hiring a full-time position. I thought it would have taken a lot longer, but the county was a really good partner and was able to fund a position that was full-time and well-paid.
MSN: After some delays, construction started at Arroyo Crossing this past fall. What’s the status of the project right now?
Myers: I’m so stoked that there’s finally vertical construction! HASU [the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah] and Community Rebuilds are on their first rounds of self-help. [In self-help programs, homeowners help build their own houses. -ed.] They’re working on eight homes—some twin homes, mostly single-family. We are in the process of starting to talk about other lots. We have a private developer that’s interested in some twin homes tracts and another developer that’s interested in developing townhomes. I think both of those will be in a higher income range, addressing a group that can’t qualify for self-help or doesn’t have time for that program but can still qualify for the 120% AMI. [AMI stands for Area Median Income. Arroyo Crossing is open to several income brackets; the highest qualifying bracket is at 120% of the AMI. -ed.] HASU is also applying for low income housing tax credits for a low income 32-unit apartment complex that’s going to be called Skyline Apartments. They applied for funding with the county’s economic development office—the Governor’s Office of Economic Development just awarded the county $300,000 for pre-development for the Skyline Apartment, which is exciting. That will be our first apartment project. Right now HASU is looking at a timeline for applying for tax credits this year with a goal of constructing apartments in 2023 and 2024.
MSN: What are your tasks and goals for the trust right now?
Myers: Getting ready for this current build, there were a lot of growing pains and lessons learned to get to this point. For now we’re going to be focusing on implementing what we learned last year to make things go more smoothly for developers.
This year, 2022, marks 10 years of MACLT being an established organization—they were incorporated in April of 2012. I think this will be a really exciting year to work on organizational capacity. The mission for so long has been getting Arroyo Crossing to this point. We’re going to focus this year on making sure that the build out is successful, but also doing some strategic planning to figure out what the land trust does for the next 10 years.
MSN: What advice would you give the city in looking for a new senior projects manager? What advice would you give to the candidate they hire?
Myers: I think that will be dependent on how the city moves forward with Walnut Lane. [Walnut Lane is an affordable housing project the city has undertaken; the project has met with various challenges. -ed.] I think they’ll need experience in project management and development, affordable housing, budgets… I think above anything else I would say that this project is really complicated and challenging, and it’s the right thing to do, and to stick with it and keep moving forward and run yourself as a mission-driven developer. One of the most important things I took away from this project, especially with all the trailer parks being flipped in the city right now, is that the right choice is often the hard choice but it’s the right choice for a reason… Everybody deserves a safe place to call home.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.