Grand County Planning and Zoning staff are moving ahead towards crafting an assured workforce housing ordinance similar to one recently passed by the city.

The planned changes to the county’s land use code will create methods to increase deed-restricted housing for local residents through both requirements and incentives. The first step, which commissioners approved at their Aug. 16 meeting, is to commission a “housing nexus” study to determine current and future housing demand. Consultants BAE Urban Economics will conduct the study for a sum not to exceed $130,320.

BAE Urban Economics was the only entity to bid on the county’s request for proposals; the company has worked with both Moab City and Grand County on housing studies in the past, and staff were comfortable contracting with BAE again for the housing nexus study. The study will examine zoning and development potential and likely future employment to determine housing needs.

“It’s kind of looking at the whole buildout capacity and figuring out what we actually need, in real terms, as far as local housing to support new commercial [development],” Planning Director Elissa Martin said. The study will take into account multiple parameters, such as water availability, when projecting development capacity.

The housing study will also examine existing and possible incentive programs to encourage the development of more attainable or affordable housing. In 2018, the county crafted the High Density Housing Overlay, incentivizing the creation of workforce housing by offering a density bonus in exchange for 80% of units being deed-restricted to local workers. That program is nearing its intended capacity, but planners are considering opening another round of HDHO applications. Or, Martin said, a similar program might be implemented through a future land-use map (rather than an overlay), which could more clearly outline where higher density housing is desired.

“We have many tools that we would like to figure out if we can implement,” Martin said.

Martin acknowledged that the city has faced substantial opposition from developers on its new active employment household ordinance.

“When they came to their public hearing initially, I think there was a lot of misconception around what they were proposing, and it got stalled for many months,” Martin said. City planners had to negotiate with developers to reach a compromise.

“Where we stand, a lot of that work is underway, and we are working with the city on aligning our approach and making sure that we’re not undermining any of that effort,” Martin said.

The county’s approach will also differ from the city’s strategy in that it will apply broadly across all zones, and not just to new subdivisions. The housing nexus study will help determine appropriate amounts for payments-in-lieu to be paid by commercial or non-residential developers.