Diane Brower: Council needs to require deed restrictions of Brynn Grey
Steamboat Springs City Council will discuss the Brynn Grey pre-annexation agreement for its proposed development in the West of Steamboat Springs area at around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Brynn Grey has produced attractive, livable neighborhoods and affordable homes in other Colorado towns. To get affordable homes built, it was necessary for those towns to help bring the home costs down, whether by donating land or other means of subsidizing costs of development.
Unfortunately, that kind of assistance in producing affordable for-purchase homes isn’t available in Steamboat. The 5A ballot initiative, which our town passed last fall, will be used almost entirely to produce affordable, long-term rental units – definitely much needed but not meeting the need for affordable for-purchase homes.
Inclusionary zoning, the only other source of funding for for-purchase affordable homes in Steamboat, was put on moratorium status by City Council years ago. It was claimed by developers to be “unfair” and to “not work,” even though it’s a common source of funding for many successful affordable housing programs in communities like ours.
If it had remained active, it would have produced millions of dollars for affordable housing by now. The majority of City Council is planning to vote to get rid of inclusionary zoning completely later in September. But that’s a topic for a different letter to the editor.
Up for discussion Aug. 21 is another commonly-used affordable housing technique: deed restrictions. Affordable housing administrators in other communities with robust affordable housing programs have told me that, without meaningful deed restrictions, affordable housing programs don’t remain affordable.
Usually, deed restrictions assure that “affordable” homes remain so with an appreciation cap. The homes are sold to people who are income qualified, and the appreciation cap doesn’t allow the home to appreciate in value at market rate.
A common appreciation cap for affordable homes is 3 percent, a reasonable increase in home value but certainly lower than what occurs at market rate in Steamboat. The appreciation cap assures an affordable house remains affordable when sold again.
These terms don’t appeal to everyone, but they do appeal to people who want to own a home and live in a community where the home prices are otherwise beyond their reach. In Steamboat, there are many homes, built in affordable housing projects many years ago, still happily owned by people who figured they could handle deed restrictions if it meant they could live here and own their home.
The only deed restriction City Council is asking of the Brynn Grey development is “locals only.” This means that people with high incomes will be competing against those with lower incomes for “affordable” homes. The “affordable” home will thereafter be sold at market rate and will no longer be “affordable.”
This defeats the stated purpose in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan of requiring an annexation to produce “affordable” homes. Any homes designated as affordable in the Brynn Grey development will only be so at the initial sale. It’s a virtually meaningless deed restriction, designed to be easy to manage but totally ineffective in creating long-term, affordable, for-purchase homes in our community.
It’s not clear whether Brynn Grey will actually produce enough homes at a price that meets the criteria of “affordable” within the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, but that’s another discussion. At the very least, homes designated “affordable” should have deed restrictions that assure they can be bought by people who have a financial need. The deed restrictions must also assure homes remain affordable for the long term.
Ask City Council to require meaningful deed restrictions of Brynn Grey. Email them or attend the Tuesday session.
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