Developers looking to include affordable units in projects could enjoy expedited process


A proposed location for a new fire station would include city hall and an adjacent parking lot. The new fire station and the city offices would be combined into a new city-owned facility. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Steamboat Springs will continue exploring another avenue to create more much-needed affordable housing: expediting the application and review process for developers proposing projects with at least 30% deed-restricted workforce or affordable housing.

Planning commission members agreed at their Monday, Jan. 24, work session that both types of housing are crucial, as the city’s code defines workforce and affordable housing differently.

Affordable housing is defined as a unit in which an individual or family making no more than 120% of Routt County median income pays no more than 30% of their income on housing.

Workforce housing, on the other hand, is deed-restricted for “qualified residents,” which has no specific definition, but primarily refers to employees of a specific company, though it can include any company in the county.

Senior Planner Toby Stauffer said modifying the process to help things move faster could help incentivize developers to include affordable units in projects.

“We receive a lot of housing applications right now, so I think it could apply to a lot of our projects,” Stauffer said. “We have heard that the process can take a while, and we think this approach we’re taking has been different than what we’ve done before.”

While projects could be expedited, Stauffer said the city would not allow developers to cut corners, and expedited projects would still be held to the same standards as any other.

“A full review but hopefully quicker,” Stuaffer said.

While planning staff and commissioners acknowledged the move is one way to solve the problem, they agreed it’s still only one small piece of the puzzle.

“As we all know, the process is something people like to complain about and suggest that we can streamline and make faster,” said Planning Director Rebecca Bessey. “I think it serves us all well to take that to heart and do what we can do and have control over.”

Bessey said she is “somewhat doubtful,” that the move will drastically change anything for Steamboat, but if it helps bring in even a few units a year, it is still worthwhile.

Commissioner David Baldinger Jr. said the project likely will not incentivize luxury developers to begin, including affordable units, but could still help bring in a few units.

“Any housing unit is a good unit, but I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of new units created by this,” Baldinger Jr. said.

Commissioners also wanted to find a way to ensure the projects stayed affordable .

“If we’re trying to make deed-restricted units the catch-all of affordable housing, we need to look at making successful deed-restricted units,” said commission Chair Brian Adams.

Planning commission will continue discussion on the topic.

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