Wheeler Member
Jason Wheeler
Color Country Community Housing

Recent Activity

Wheeler Jason Wheeler started the topic Balance in the discussion  Public Housing AuthoritiesPublic PolicyGeneral InformationNews and Events
     5 years ago

The current Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellows share their ideas, inspirations and photos from the field on our blog. Learn more about the Fellowship.

Many in the affordable housing community will be acutely aware of last year’s “Building ‘Taj Mahals’ with Taxpayer Money*”, a scathing critique leveled at the rising cost of low-income housing tax-credit projects. Posted July 21, 2011 in the Voice of San Diego, the article contends that increasingly competitive requirements for amenities, green features, and site location have driven the cost of developing affordable housing to be more than double that of private, market-rate developments (At least, such seems to be the case in California).

The basic justification for any sort of taxation in a democracy is that taxes levied will be used for the general public benefit. Ranging from military defense and sewer systems to schools and vaccinations, these publicly funded goods and services improve life for the aggregate. Self-interested Keynesian economics dictate that without the intervention of public policy, many services critical for the success of large-scale economies would remain unfunded by the private sector.

And so we arrive at the questions that beg to be asked: is the low-income housing tax credit program a just use of tax-payer funds? Does the program benefit only the select few who happen to income-qualify, or is there a greater public benefit to all the rest of us who are footing the bill? Perhaps most importantly, should these affordable housing projects include nice amenities, or just provide for the basic necessities of life?

These questions, abstract and remote last July when I first read the diatribe of Taxpayers and Taj Mahals, came into sharp focus recently when one of our own projects came under fire from Utah’s tax-credit administering body for providing too many amenities. Suddenly my positions on the issue, previously certain and dogmatic, found themselves on shaky ground.

To read the rest of the post, please visit the Enterprise blog.

Wheeler Jason Wheeler started the topic Field Notes: 'Cause Momma Says So in the discussion  Location and Neighborhood FabricSite and Landscape
     5 years ago

Despite adamant protesting on my part, when I was younger Mom always made me eat the bitter greens from my plate.  

Being from the West*, in my book “bitter greens” comprised spinach, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, zucchini… I made an exception for peas, which I would devour voraciously, particularly if they were uncooked and fresh shelled from our garden.  Mom insisted that the “greens” were good for me, that someday I would appreciate her efforts to include healthy foods in my diet.  Dad, in his clumsy attempts to be simultaneously supportive and humorous, would quip that the greens would help me grow hair between my toes and on my eyeballs.  As if he thought that would help. 

Turns out Mom was right.  I still remember the first time I voluntarily prepared and consumed a large helping of green beans with dinner as a 12-year-old while my parents were out one evening.  Today I love all sorts of veggies, and will even occasionally eat cabbage (and by occasionally, I mean once per year with corned beef in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day).  Fortunately Dad’s assertions weren’t as accurate:  I’ve yet to grow hair between my toes.


As the Mutual Self Help program at Color Country has expanded over the past few years, it seems our organization is always in search of new building lots.  A few months ago we purchased an undeveloped strip of land fronting Ivins City Main Street.  The parcel, which lies a few blocks south of City Hall and immediately adjacent to Ivins’ historic district, comprised 14 quarter-acre lots as originally platted.  Although whole-heartedly supportive of the Self Help program, I worried about the impact of building an additional “baker’s dozen plus” of our traditional homes in domino fashion at such a prominent location.

Plot plan


Following Enterprise Green Communities’ commitment to public open space, I proposed to our Executive Director that we include a small park in the middle of the development to help break up the row of homes.  While somewhat concerned about the cost of building a park, he was supportive of the idea and suggested that I broach the subject with Ivins’ City.  After conversations with several members of Ivins’ development staff and park department, we determined that the park would not only be a good asset but would also help us qualify for a “density bonus”, allowing Color Country to develop a 15th lot to offset the cost of constructing the park. 

Front Elevation of Desert Senna House Plan
All that remained was getting the proposed park through the necessary public hearings and receiving final approval from the City Council.  Piece of cake, right?  I mean, who doesn’t love a good park? 

Which might explain why I was blind-sided when neighbors to our development showed up en masse to the public hearings to oppose the addition of the park.  Concerns ranged from the effect of the smaller lots (fifth-acre vs quarter-acre) on property values to the possibility that the park would attract crime and drug use.  Based on the community input from the first public hearing, the planning commission recommended that the city council deny the addition of the park and approve instead the original 14-lot subdivision.

Interestingly enough, while I remained convinced that the park would be good for the community, I also couldn’t help but wonder “who am I to force my own ideas of good design and healthy living on these people?”  At the end of the day it was their neighborhood, not mine.  And in all fairness, once upon a time ago I too had a serious dislike for anything approaching the shade of green…

‘Course, as a kid Mom always made me eat my vegetables anyway.

Front Elevation of Foxtail House Plan

Two weeks later at City Council meeting, the council members listened attentively as local residents re-voiced their concerns from the previous public hearing.  And then, in an unexpected twist, the council began to express their overwhelming support for the park.  One council member had even prepared a written 15-minute diatribe along with supporting research and documentation as to the benefits of public spaces for communities.  At the end of the meeting, the council voted unanimously in support of incorporating the park in our Main Street development.

It is my honest hope that the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods will likewise come to find the park as an asset.  Sometime it takes a little time, but eventually most of us realize that green beans are quite good, that spinach is amazing with a little butter and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and that there is nothing in the world better than a warm slice of zucchini bread.


 * Note: It wasn’t until much later in life when my travels took me east of the Mississippi that I finally discovered the true meaning of bitter greens:  endives and collard greens still make me grimace…