As community housing ordinance suspension continues, new council can consider other options | SteamboatToday.com

As community housing ordinance suspension continues, new council can consider other options

Scott Franz

— The city of Steamboat Springs’ planning staff and other community organizations are ready and waiting to talk with a new city council about how it might choose to help promote the creation of more affordable housing units at a time some local workers are struggling to find a place to live.

“We’re prepared with a lot of information for them,” Planning and Community Development Director Tyler Gibbs said Thursday. “We’re anxiously waiting to dive in.”

The former city council in August decided to order another yearlong suspension of the city’s affordable housing ordinance, which formerly required developers to create affordable units in their projects or pay a fee in lieu of their creation.

Council members were interested in exploring other ways of promoting the creation of more affordable housing units here.

During the nearly eight years the ordinance was in effect, city staff said it created obligations for developers to either construct approximately 140 units or provide $3.4 million in fee-in-lieu payments.

However, the majority of the approved projects were never constructed, and the obligations were not realized.

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City staff recently presented the council with a long list of alternatives to the suspended ordinance.

The “toolkit” included such options as zoning incentives and reduced fees on housing projects.

Housing is poised to be a topic in an upcoming council goal-setting session.

“This can’t be an initiative that just comes from local government,” Gibbs said. “The issue has to be defined by the community, and the steps the community might be willing to take to address it really need to come organically from the employers and others who feel the effects of housing challenges.”

In the meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency has offered an outline of a possible roadmap the city might use to address the issue.

The report, which is the product of a workshop EPA engineers held with community members and city staff during the summer, urges the city to first convene a strategy session with Colorado Mountain College, Yampa Valley Medical Center, the Steamboat Ski Area and other major employers to identify some “champions” in the discussion.

The report also suggests a public meeting on the topic and a discussion at the council level about options ranging from changing the city’s codes to allow tiny houses to deferring fees on affordable projects.

View the full report here.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10