Steamboat Chamber panel addresses affordable housing
Editor’s note: The Ponds at Steamboat houses six people per two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. The capacity has been corrected below.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Affordable housing was the topic of a business outlook breakfast hosted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber on Tuesday morning, and many audience members were happy to hear there were housing projects coming online for low-income as well as medium-income households.
“I’m glad we’re addressing that combination of need in the community,” said Katie Jacobs, the Steamboat Springs School District’s director of human resources.
Jacobs oversees hiring for the district and said up until now they’ve been able to keep good employees despite the high cost of living.
“Housing hasn’t been a huge deterrent yet, but we’re hearing from current staff how it’s getting more and more expensive,” she said.
Jason Peasley, executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, sat on the business panel with Mark Walker, president of Resort Group, and Rachel Lunney of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.
Steamboat Springs affordable housing and workforce housing complexes:
Hillside Village Apartments, Tamarack Drive
• Owned and managed by Yampa Valley Housing Authority
• Low-income residents with 80 percent area median income or less
• 35 two-bedroom units; 20 one-bedroom units
• 36 units have rental subsidies
• Wait list
Fish Creek Mobile Home Park, near U.S. Highway 40 and Anglers Drive
• Bought by the Housing Authority in 2007 to ensure future affordability for residents
• No income requirement but owner-occupied Routt County residents only
• 68 homes
The Reserves at Steamboat, near Elk River Road and U.S. 40
• Owned by Housing Authority and Overland Property Group; currently managed by third party
• Low-income residents with 60 percent area median income or less
• 24 two-bedroom units; 24 three-bedroom units
• Wait list
The Ponds at Steamboat, near U.S. 40 and Walton Creek Road
• Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. provides low-cost furnished housing for employees
• Two-bedroom, two-bath apartments with up to four to six people per apartment
Alpiner Lodge, Lincoln Avenue
• Managed by Resort Group to provide low-cost, furnished housing for employees
• 32 hotel rooms and 84 beds with up to two to three people per room
Peasley is overseeing development of the Alpenglow Village development at U.S. Highway 40 and Anglers Drive. The apartment complex will house both low- and moderate-income families — up to 120 percent of area median household income — and is slated for completion by August 2020.
The housing authority’s most recent project, The Reserves at Steamboat, caters to low-income households at 60 percent of area median income or less. Overland Property Group is partnering with the housing authority on both projects.
Walker and Lunney spoke about workforce housing.
Lunney said the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments is expected to release a report on workforce housing based on a study of dozens of resort cities in Colorado and Utah. She talked about strategies other resort towns have adopted to help retain employees.
“Summit County’s housing authority is trying to entice property owners to turn from seasonal rentals to long-term rentals by acting as the property manager on their behalf,” Lunney said.
And like the model set by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, other towns are encouraging their housing authorities to work with private developers to build long-term rentals.
“They have an eye towards requiring that if you’re going to rent, you have to work 30 hours or more in Summit County,” Lunney added.
Not many people understand the problem of workforce housing like Wyndham Resorts’ Bill Anderson, who oversees vacation rental operations for the Western U.S. and Canada.
“My motto is ‘he who has housing wins in the employment game,’” Anderson said.
He said Wyndham uses two to four apartment complexes in most resort towns to help employees with low-cost housing.
“Housing is critical for some of the tougher positions,” he said. “Maintenance and housekeeping are difficult this year.”
Anderson has leased and refurbished mobile homes in the Fairplay and Breckenridge areas. He said employers will be pursuing more long-term leases to entice private developers to create housing or turn existing properties into employee housing.
Steamboat’s Resort Group did just that four years ago to help its employees, signing a lease with Alpiner Lodge, an older motel that was sitting empty on Lincoln Avenue.
“We were able to add 84 more beds for the winter and summer,” Walker said.
The audience peppered the panel with questions about making it easier for developers to build.
Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter said the city can improve its building regulations but the free market in resort areas is geared toward wealthier people.
“I’ve worked as a city manager in some of these resort communities,” Suiter said. “The free market will gravitate toward the higher-end product.”
Still “cleaner regulations” will go a long way toward helping everyone, Peasley added.
“When I worked for the city, I wrote some of that building code,” Peasley said. “Now, I look back and see how ridiculous some of those are.”
Peasley and Suiter agreed one of Steamboat’s best tools for building affordable housing is the mill levy that voters approved last year to fund the local housing authority. The funding created by the new tax has been used to leverage tax credits from the federal government. In the case of Alpenglow Village, the housing authority put up $525,000 in funding to attract $13.5 million in tax credits to finance the project.
The idea of using public land to build affordable housing was also discussed. For example, unused land owned by the school district could be used to build housing for school employees.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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