Our View: Building affordable housing on both sides of town | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Building affordable housing on both sides of town

At issue: Preserving Steamboat’s social diversity

Our view: The Yampa Valley Housing Authority and its private sector partner understand that Steamboat values workforce housing throughout the community

Steamboat Pilot & Today was not surprised to learn this week the Reserves at Steamboat affordable apartment complex won the “Peoples’ Choice Award,” from Housing Colorado on April 26.

Housing Colorado is the industry organization that supports professionals engaged in the business of designing, developing and increasing support for affordable housing across the state.  Matt Gillam, vice president of development with Overland Property Group of Kansas, which partnered with the local housing group to build The Reserves, told the board of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority on May 10 his company was thrilled with the award.

There are good reasons why The Reserves received recognition.

The materials on the outside of the apartment buildings compares to market rate products.

Each of the 48 apartments has its own outdoor living space, and the homes are beautiful, with well-appointed kitchens. The 9-foot ceilings make a big difference in how spacious they feel.

Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley informed his board of directors May 10 that the most popular outdoor amenity at The Reserves, thus far, is the community garden.

We’re also not surprised to have learned the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and its private sector partner at The Reserves, Overland Property Group of Kansas, are already in hot pursuit of the federal incentives needed to build a larger version of The Reserves on the city’s south side. This time, the housing authority and Overland hope to build 72 apartments on a parcel of land immediately to the west (on the river side) of the Steamboat Walgreens store.

Already they are intent on delivering on the willingness of voters living within its district boundaries to increase their collective property taxes by $900,000 annually, for 10 years, to allow the housing authority to build on its success at The Reserves.

Actually building the apartments depends on the housing authority being awarded the federal income tax credits from the Colorado Housing Finance Authority.

Sold on financial markets, the tax credits raise the two partners’ equity in the project. That, in turn, allows them to rent to people earning from 30 to 120 percent of the local median income, with an emphasis on households in the 60-percent or less category.

Gillam emphasized it is important to his company to send a message to the Housing Finance Authority that Steamboat Springs is not intent on developing its affordable housing solely on the west side of town, far from the resort base.

Instead, Overland and the housing authority are seeking to enable economic diversity on both sides of Steamboat.

That means at least a percentage of the local work force employed in important jobs that matter, but don’t necessarily come with wages high enough to comfortably afford rents here, will always be a part of the community.

If there was one concerning piece of news at this week’s housing authority meeting, it’s that the original intent was to build 96 new apartments, starting in 2019. But that will not happen, at least not in 2019.

Gillam told the group that, after searching for an appropriate site to accommodate that many apartments, they couldn’t find one at a price that would fit their financial pro-forma.

That could mean, if the local housing authority is fortunate enough to be awarded the tax credits it needs from the Colorado Housing Finance Authority in September, and follows through,  the new affordable housing project, a short walk to Fetcher Park and the Yampa River Core Trail, could represent a very rare opportunity, indeed.

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