YVHA officially downsizes | SteamboatToday.com

YVHA officially downsizes

Board president to apply for Housing Authority's sole staff position

Brandon Gee

— The Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s board of directors gave final approval Thursday to a $1.5 million 2009 budget that will eliminate all current employees and put the authority into “survival mode” as it contemplates its future – or lack thereof.

The Housing Authority will be reorganized under one staff position and cease efforts to develop new affordable housing projects. Executive Director Donna Howell and Assistant Director Curtis Church said they do not intend to apply for the new position of asset/program manager. The position, which will pay $50,000 to $60,000 a year, would have meant a pay cut for both of them.

Housing Authority Board President Mary Alice Page-Allen, a land-use consultant and former county planner, said she intends to apply, and she recused herself from Thursday’s board meeting when the job description for the position was discussed and ultimately approved.

“That person will continue to make sure all the programs we have will continue to operate,” board member and County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said last week. “We’re hoping that there’s someone local that will be interested in applying for that position.”

The asset/program manager will be responsible for the continued management of Hillside Village Apartments, Fox Creek Village and the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park. The asset/program manager also will monitor deed restrictions and administer Housing Authority programs such as down-payment assistance.

“The budget that we’re going to adopt is based on the number we’re assured of having next year,” Stahoviak said last week. “It doesn’t take into account the potential selling of some of our properties.”

The board previously decided to sell the undeveloped Elk River Village parcel on Routt County Road 129. The Housing Authority board met in executive, or secret, session Thursday to discuss the sale, and it may have chosen a Realtor. The Housing Authority also may divest itself of its Sierra View property in Oak Creek, a topic that was discussed during executive session. Loan repayments on the vacant parcels are the primary expenditures in the Housing Authority’s 2009 development fund. Their sale probably would help the agency’s bottom line but set it back in terms of developing new affordable housing.

Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs created the Housing Authority in 2003 and charged it with creating affordable housing options in the county. Both entities have approved 2009 budgets allocating $80,000 each to the Housing Authority. The remainder of its revenues come primarily from grants, fees and the management of housing projects.

Election question

Also on Thursday, board members continued their debate about whether the Housing Authority should attempt to earn voter approval in 2009 for a property or sales tax. Noting the results of a 2007 survey, most board members agreed any ballot measure to fund the authority would fail. Some said current economic conditions would make it an even tougher sale.

“I don’t care what the economic factors are. We don’t have an icicle’s chance in hell of getting a ballot issue passed,” board member Ed MacArthur said.

Others thought the Housing Authority has a moral obligation to put forth a ballot measure.

“You could at least wake up the next morning and know you gave it a shot,” said Steve Aigner, community organizer for the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley. “I think there is essentially a moral argument to be made.”

Additionally, Stahoviak said a failed ballot measure would “force the issue” concerning the city’s and county’s continued funding of the Housing Authority. The entities initially founded and funded the Housing Authority with the expectation it eventually would find its own dedicated funding source.

“To me, whether or not it’s going to pass is not a reason to put it on the ballot,” Stahoviak said. If it fails, “then we have good reason to go back to the city and county and say, ‘The citizens of this county are not willing to fund the Housing Authority. Are the city and county willing to fund it?'”

But some cautioned that a failed ballot measure would set the Housing Authority and other affordable housing efforts back. Developer Danny Mulcahy said affordable housing opponents might use the results of such an election as ammunition against other affordable housing initiatives by claiming the issue does not have the support of the community.

The board ultimately decided not to attempt a ballot issue in 2009, but it did discuss ways it could gain more public support in anticipation of going to voters in later years.

Steamboat resident Michelle Garner spoke to what board members agreed is YVHA’s biggest problem. Garner said she remains confused after attending some Housing Authority board meetings as a member of the public.

“I don’t know who you are, how you relate to the city,” said Garner, who said she felt she represented the views of “Joe Citizen.”

Board members said tensions between the Housing Authority and the city – which has its own community housing coordinator and affordable housing ordinances – must be eased if the Housing Authority is to gain widespread support from the community.

“I think the heart of the problem is what Michelle said,” board member Tony Seaver said. “I personally believe there is a role for both entities to play. But the two have not done well in terms of communicating and cooperating.”

While the Housing Authority is paring down its operations in 2009 and, potentially, subsequent years, most board members said they would not be content with the Housing Authority playing such a small role in the long-term.

“I believe strongly that the Housing Authority should be in the business of developing housing,” Stahoviak said. “If we’re not going to want to expand our horizons : then there’s no reason to have a board or a Housing Authority.”

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