The City of Moab’s workforce housing ordinance, which would require a certain percentage of units in new developments to be occupied by members of the current or former local workforce, has been in the works for over six months. At a meeting on April 26, the city council held a closed meeting with lawyers to discuss possible options for how to move the ordinance forward.

The ordinance’s last draft mandated that 42.5% of units in new housing developments that are three units or larger in size and within the R3 and R4 zones be set aside. That number was reached through data collection and analysis by a consulting company, BAE Urban Economics, which concluded that setting aside 42.5% of new units would provide the local workforce with the housing it needs. 

There was nothing within the ordinance about cost; provided that the units were occupied with “active employment households”, they could be rented at market rate, however, city staff assumed that the purchase or rental cost for those units would have to be lower to be affordable for the majority of people employed within Grand County. The city’s Planning and Zoning Director Cory Shurtleff said at a previous meeting that this ordinance would create “attainable,” rather than “affordable” housing, adding that this ordinance only addresses an occupancy requirement, with no bearing on what the rent or sale of the unit should be. 

The ordinance has faced pushback and legal threats from real estate agents including the Utah Association of Realtors, and, according to Mayor Joette Langianese, members of the Utah State Legislature, who all argue that the ordinance is impacting property rights. 

During a meeting on March 31, those against the ordinance said the city should give developers an incentive to set units aside. Incentivizing developers is something Grand County does in its popular High-Density Housing Overlay, passed in 2019, which allows developers to build at a higher density than their underlying zoning would allow, as long as they deed-restrict a percentage of the units to Grand County workers.

The council tabled the ordinance on March 31; since then, Langianese said at a meeting on April 26, she, City Manager Carly Castle, and the city’s attorneys met with both the Utah Private Property Coalition and Utah Realtors Association. 

“This is an ordinance that could, if we don’t get it right, potentially be challenged in court,” said Nathan Bracken, the city’s attorney. “I don’t really have a choice but to discuss those strategies and options in a closed session.”

Langianese said she would ideally like to take action on the ordinance before the next regular City Council meeting on May 10.