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Murray Journal

Murray complies with legislative demand for more medium-income and higher-density housing

Dec 02, 2022 03:04PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Murray City Council voted to comply with a new state law that requires cities to zone for more moderate-income housing and high-density projects. At the Sept. 20 city council meeting, the council adopted a resolution outlining five strategies out of 24 selections identified by House Bill 462.

Zachary Smallwood, senior planner with Murray City Planning, told the council, “So we, through your discussions and working through everything, we came through with these five strategies. So with the overarching goal—which we didn’t change, which was to provide a diversity of housing through a range of types and development patterns—to expand the moderate-income housing options available to existing and future residents.”

HB 462 requires cities to zone for some moderate-income housing while encouraging more dense housing to be permitted near public transit hubs. The Utah State Legislature passed this legislation in 2022 to address the housing shortage impacting Utah’s communities.

Smallwood said, “Major transit investment corridors are your Trax lines and your FrontRunner lines, so that it will be around those stations. So an example of higher density means going from an R-1-8 (single-family homes) to an R-1-6 (higher-density housing) that could be a higher density. In all fairness, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going from R-1-8 to 200 units per acre. Those are two very different things, so this strategy is to have us look at that a little bit further and determine what we can do to evaluate that and determine if those are adequate numbers where our densities are written…at right now.”

HB 462 requires that municipalities take additional steps to ensure that each city is planning and reducing barriers to moderate-income housing. Moderate income is defined as those with household incomes less than 80% of the area median income (AMI).

The new legislation requires municipalities to include specific strategies in their general plans’ Moderate Income Housing (MIH) elements. It provides a list of 24 “menu” items to select. HB 462 also requires that cities develop actionable implementation plans for each of those strategies and give the state a yearly report of the city’s steps to make affordable housing more attainable.

The five strategies are: 1. Demonstrate investment in the rehabilitation or expansion of infrastructure that facilitates the construction of moderate-income housing. 2. Create or allow for and reduce regulations related to Internal or Detached Accessory Dwelling Units in residential zones. 3. Amend land use regulations to allow for higher density or new moderate-income residential development in a commercial or mixed-use zone near major transit investment corridors. 4. Implement a mortgage assistance program for municipality employees or employers that provides contracted services to the municipality or any other public employer within the municipality. 5. Develop and adopt station area plans.

“The Fashion Place West area would probably be the most impacted. I would anticipate this because you know we have MCCD (Murray City Center District) that already allows a certain density. MCMU (center’s mixed-use zoning for Fashion Place West) allows for it, and the center’s mixed-use area allows for pretty significant density. So we just need to evaluate that and determine if it needs more or if there is something that it might need differently,” Smallwood said. “None of this binds your hands to say that you shall increase these things. It’s that we will look at them.”

Murray City Community and Economic Development Director Jared Hall told the council, “You evaluate whether you’re allowing a little more density on your transit corridors, and the answer is yes. We already are, so this is one of those things we already meet in some ways. We’re looking at changes in the future possibly, but that’s like Zach said; this isn’t us binding your hands to say we’re going to increase densities because we’ve already allowed greater densities on our transit corridors than anywhere else in the city. That’s the intent for the state saying, ‘Hey, city that doesn’t do any of that stuff (which isn’t us) you need to look at your situation and…not waste the opportunity of having transit corridors. That’s where you can handle your density better, so that’s where you should have some density.’ If you’re going to have it, it’s really just trying to direct it to those corridors.”

The resolution passed without opposition.