YVHA pushes for cooperation | SteamboatToday.com

YVHA pushes for cooperation

Agency discusses Elk River development, possible ballot issue

Blythe Terrell

The Yampa Valley Housing Authority last year purchased the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park with the help of a loan from the city of Steamboat Springs.

— Cooperation will be crucial for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority as it confronts a challenging financial future, agency officials agreed.

That cooperation could come in the form of work with developers and government entities – and YVHA leaders said they need the input. The authority’s plate is full of serious topics, including the future of the proposed Elk River Village development, funding and a plan in case the YVHA doesn’t survive.

“We have to look for ways to become an effective and stable organization,” President Mary Alice Page-Allen said Friday. “And that includes working with every possible entity, agency, individual that we can and making the best of the opportunities there are out there.”

Officials and community members discussed the issues at an Oct. 31 retreat. The work continued into last week, and a budget proposal is scheduled to be unveiled this week.

At the retreat, participants concluded that more cooperation with the city was necessary. For example, the YVHA board created a table explaining the specific duties of the YVHA and the city, YVHA Executive Director Donna Howell said Friday, but the Steamboat Springs City Council hasn’t weighed in on that.

“The city and the Housing Authority, we’re both very involved in housing issues, and we need to communicate in an effort to make sure that, first of all, there isn’t a duplication of services and that the perception is that we aren’t duplicating services,” Page-Allen said.

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City officials and YVHA representatives arranged a meeting to discuss those issues this month.

At the retreat, the YVHA also weighed the pros and cons of finding a partner for or selling the Elk River Village project in western Steamboat. The 67-unit development was slated to include 34 affordable units.

The YVHA runs Hillside Village Apartments, Fox Creek Village and Fish Creek Mobile Home Park. Those developments aren’t at risk, but the credit and economy problems have made it difficult to finance new projects, Page-Allen said.

Howell suggested Friday that action on Elk River Village could come soon.

“We have a new projects committee, which we convened this past Monday, and they are basically making a recommendation that will be made to the board : to sell the Elk River Village property” and two YVHA-owned lots in Oak Creek, Howell said.

A sale could ease the authority’s financial concerns, but it wouldn’t necessarily fix everything. The group gets income from Steamboat, Routt County and its project management fees. The YVHA should aim to be self-sufficient, board member Kristi Brown said. At the retreat, participants discussed creating a nonprofit arm or proposing a ballot issue.

A tax increase is tough to sell to voters, several people said. The YVHA considered a proposal for affordable housing in 2007 but dropped it because of negative feedback.

“I think that’s changing,” YVHA board member Catherine Carson said. “People care about how their neighbors and their neighbors’ kids live here.”

A week later, Howell said she thought the ballot initiative would be likely.

“I would predict that we’d be going to voters in November to see if we could get some support,” she said.

But the YVHA must be prepared for the worst, Page-Allen said at the retreat. The Strategic Planning Committee is working that angle, she said.

“Whether it has to happen or not, any good business plan should include an exit strategy, what’s going to happen with our assets when we as a business don’t exist,” Page-Allen said.

That will involve a review of priorities, she said.

“Maybe there’s things we can no longer afford to do,” Page-Allen said. “We need to look at the whole thing. We cannot continue to do business as usual. We can’t afford it.”

But the YVHA will explore all options, Howell said Friday.

“Affordable housing has been identified as a critical issue in the community, and I think the Housing Authority has made a significant contribution to that need,” she said, “and I’d like to see it continue and provide a contribution to (the) community.”

– To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234 or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com