City Council sets housing goals for Steamboat Springs
Aims to measure housing affordability in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Council is putting numbers to its goals for housing in Steamboat Springs.
In March, City Council set the following community housing goals:
- The ability for those who are employed in Steamboat Springs to also live in Steamboat Springs if they choose to.
- The cost of housing is not such a significant financial burden that it precludes other life essentials.
- The opportunity for families with children to live in Steamboat Springs if they choose to.
On Oct. 15, City Council set measurements to create an index to indicate its success in meeting those goals.
“This is kind of like a discount thermometer,” said council member Scott Ford, who was a member of the subcommittee that created the index. “This is an inexpensive thermometer from a discount store. You can look out and say, ‘Is it getting warmer or colder?’ That’s about the degree of sophistication that it has.”
Measurements included in the index are:
- Workforce efficiency: The number of employed persons who work and live in Steamboat Springs city limits. This intends to measure the number of full-time, year-round jobs in the city filled by people who also live in the city, Ford said. This metric is weighted at 40%.
- Affordability: The ratio of median earnings to the cost of homeownership and the ratio of median earnings to the cost of the gross monthly rent. This measurement addresses how much income residents are spending on housing. This metric is weighted at 40%.
- Vacancy rates: The rate of vacancies in single-family and duplex housing units. This aims to measure the number of occupied structures that are “more conducive to families,” Ford said. This metric is weighted at 20%.
These metrics were selected because this data is released annually by the U.S. Census Bureau, meaning that it can be updated each year without the city conducting its own surveys and data collection. It also can be compared to other, similar communities to identify if a trend is taking place in Steamboat or in all mountain towns. There is more detailed data available, too, which would allow the city to take a “deep dive” into any of these topics.
Ford explained council established a baseline based on 2010 data, which is when the Census started collecting this data in Steamboat.
“Things are a little bit worse than they were in 2010,” Ford said. “To the tune of about 3.5% worse, or you could call it colder.”
Ford said these metrics will be used to guide decisions City Council makes. For example, he said, it could be used as council considers decisions that impact housing costs.
“Council voted to put on the ballot a 2-mill property tax increase,” Ford said, referring to ballot measure 2A, which proposes a property tax in city limits to fund Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue. “That’s going to make housing more expensive. It doesn’t mean you wouldn’t do it, but it’s just being informed that such a decision is going to increase your housing costs.”
Council recently repealed the city’s only mechanism to support affordable housing, the community housing code commonly called inclusionary zoning. Prior to repeal, the code had been suspended, meaning it hadn’t been in effect since 2013. It required developers to create housing units restricted to people below certain incomes or pay a fee in lieu to the city.
Some council members expressed interest in exploring a revised version of inclusionary zoning as they consider other ways to support housing in Steamboat. Ford said that conversation is expected to take place at City Council’s annual retreat Dec. 11, when the council sets its goals for the coming year.
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