Housing authority seeks technical help from county on funding issue | SteamboatToday.com

Housing authority seeks technical help from county on funding issue

— When representatives of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and the Community Housing Steering Committee called on the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday to discuss the path forward in the cause of workforce housing, they were advised not to expect Routt County to advance a property tax for that purpose.

As it turns out, that's not what the group was seeking.

"What we know is that to meet the housing goals set by committee, we need to adapt a new paradigm or lose our middle class in the Yampa Valley," Housing Authority board President Roger Ashton said. "At the end of January, we had a two-hour work session with (Steamboat Springs) City Council and they committed to seven action items. Today, we'd like to focus our discussion on how the county might be able to partner with the city on some of these items and how the authority might be able to facilitate (new housing) in the designated growth areas within the county."

Commissioner Cari Hermacinski told Ashton the county had already polled town boards in Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa to determine how much remaining capacity they have in terms of drinking water, wastewater treatment and buildable lots to support housing growth.

"We've got a pretty good handle on that," Hermacinski said.

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But if it comes to seeking approval for a property tax question to raise funds in support of workforce housing, that's the Housing Authority's job, she said.

"Thirteen or 14 years ago the city and the county established Yampa Valley Housing Authority and gave the full extent of powers they could have under state statutes, including the ability to appeal to the cities for either a property or sales tax," Hermacinski said. "When you sit on the board and come to the county to pass a tax, I believe it's the mission of the Housing Authority to pursue it."

Dan Pirrallo, who chaired the housing steering committee that called for 700 new dwelling units to be built in the next four years to close the gap in housing supply, said the Housing Authority is mindful of its statutory powers, but in this case, it was asking for technical support.

"What we're asking for is to have an individual sit on a committee with the Housing Authority and help us understand what tax is the right tax," Pirrallo said. "What is the right approach in this community, given all the tax proposals coming down the path? There are at least 10 tax initiatives coming down the pike, and strategically, you get one shot."

Pirrallo, who is president of the board of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said that in a recent straw poll, his fellow board members ranked workforce housing among the top three potential tax questions being floated in the community.

Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley emphasized to the Board of Commissioners that it's not a foregone conclusion that the Housing Authority will seek a new tax. An endowment is another approach that's being explored, he said.

"We didn't want the funding committee to be the de facto tax committee," Peasley said. "We're looking for some other way of securing resources other than a tax. It's not predestined that we're going for a tax."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1