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Influential affordable housing advocate to retire at end of the month



PROVO, Utah – Scott Loomis, the man who led the nonprofit Mountainlands Community Housing Trust for the past two decades and is credited with helping create hundreds of economically attainable apartments and homes, is retiring at the end of the month.

His legacy can be seen in the apartment buildings and houses he had a hand in developing that are scattered across the Wasatch Back. Park City Councilor Tim Henney said Mountainlands wouldn’t be where it is today without Loomis’ leadership.

“I don’t think there is anybody in our region who has done more for affordable housing than Scott Loomis,” said Henney, who serves as a Park City Council liaison to the housing trust.

Since 1993, Mountainlands has created 337 affordable apartments and 247 affordable homes, with more than 100 more units under construction as of January. Loomis was at the helm for the vast majority of those projects since joining in 2001 — 20 years to the day before his scheduled retirement April 30.

The housing trust leverages money from federal and state programs to make affordable housing developments financially feasible without the profit margin that attracts most developers. It’s intricate, sometimes frustrating work, Loomis said, but the successes are rewarding. The deals can have several layers of financing from multiple organizations and must go through the same zoning and land-use process as other developments.

In a recent interview, Loomis said that leading Mountainlands was the best job he’s ever had.

“The challenge for me is to be creative, to make something happen where it doesn’t seem possible,” he said. “So that’s where I got the enjoyment: putting tough deals together, making them come together.”

When Loomis joined Mountainlands, the nonprofit was just finishing up one of its biggest early projects, the Holiday Village Apartments off Monitor Drive, which Loomis said was largely accomplished by consultants.

There weren’t many projects lined up to come next for Mountainlands, Loomis recalled, so he set about to change that.

“For every project we did, we probably looked at 20 different projects,” he said. “… (We would) pursue about six or seven things and hope a few of them happen.”

It was nine months later that Mountainlands started its first construction project, Loomis said, a dozen homes in Oakley.

Loomis described himself as a grinder, methodically meeting each challenge as it comes and moving stepwise through a project rather than getting caught up in what can seem like insurmountable challenges.

He has demonstrated the skills to develop real estate, but chose to lead Mountainlands rather than pursue a career as a for-profit developer.

“In my career I have never done anything just for the money but for the challenge of making things happen,” Loomis wrote in an email to The Park Record.

Despite the ever-increasing need for affordable housing in the Park City area, and the issue’s stated importance to local officials, Loomis said he has experienced his fair share of rejection from local land-use authorities while leading Mountainlands.

Loomis said he has often been rebuffed by officials in Park City, Summit County and Wasatch County when he would approach them with larger projects than they were comfortable with.

“From our standpoint, Mountainlands’ standpoint, we came to the conclusion that we’re going to do what we can do and the overall problem isn’t ours. It’s for others to deal with,” he said.

It’s a conclusion he said he came to after investing time and energy in several projects that officials initially encouraged but eventually rejected.

Still, Mountainlands does more than perhaps any other local entity to provide affordable housing. In addition to pursuing projects, it maintains a database of available affordable housing options and provides guidance to potential tenants, often directing them to resources and other local nonprofits.

Jeff Jones, Summit County’s economic development and housing director, called Loomis a “tremendous leader” on affordable housing issues and said he would be greatly missed.

Glenn Wright, chair of the Summit County Council, said Loomis and Mountainlands have been the prime developers of affordable housing locally, calling them “the foundation of providing affordable housing for our community.”

Loomis said he was proud to leave the organization in good standing, with millions of dollars in liquid assets and an experienced leadership team. That includes incoming executive director, Pat Matheson, and incoming managing director Steve Laurent, both of whom have worked for the nonprofit for years.

Loomis said he will stay on as a consultant through the end of 2022.

Both Wright and Henney said that having affordable places for people to live is key for a functioning, vibrant community, and they lauded Loomis’ role in pursuing that goal for decades.

“He has succeeded over the last two decades where others have not necessarily failed but struggled,” Henney wrote in a message to The Park Record. “Park City Municipal, Summit County, Habitat for Humanity and Mountainlands all share the same belief in the essential need for and goal to deliver affordable housing but only Scott and Mountainlands have been able to execute and provide meaningful numbers of units.”

Henney added that Loomis’ impact on the community was “profound.”