Housing hitch | SteamboatToday.com

Housing hitch

Low supply of affordable homes face high demand

Mike Lawrence

While construction continues to boom in Steamboat Springs, city officials are searching for ways to address the area's lack of affordable housing. Many other Western Colorado resort communities also are struggling with the issue.

— Steamboat Springs isn’t alone as a Western Colorado resort community confronting a lack of affordable housing.

As members of the Steamboat Springs City Council consider the affordable housing goals they laid out last week in preparation for another housing work session Dec. 12, they don’t have to look far to see examples of similar struggles in similar communities.

In recent planning documents and in the Nov. 7 election, resort communities such as Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride identified and began addressing the need to provide housing for low- to moderate-income workers and to increase the number of those workers who live within the community.

A statement from Pitkin County’s “Affordable Housing Regulation Support Study,” which Denver consulting firm Clarion Associates completed in 2004 to examine housing issues in the Aspen area, clarifies the problem by showing startling numbers.

“In 1985, 73 percent of all Pitkin County employees lived in the county.

This percentage declined to 46 percent in 2000. Employment projections indicate that the local portion of total employment will continue to decline, to 38 percent by 2020, unless additional housing is provided in the county within the price ranges that are affordable to local employees,” the report reads.

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On Tuesday, housing consultant and Crested Butte resident Melanie Rees told Steamboat’s City Council that Steamboat is slightly better off – as of 2000, 56 percent of Steamboat’s workforce lived within city limits.

“You’re much more family-oriented and stable here,” Rees told the council.

City Council President Ken Brenner and council member Towny Anderson said the city’s goal should be to have a local workforce of more than 70 percent.

But that will require not only construction of hundreds of residential units – Rees estimated that Steamboat has a need for 400 to 500 new residences to meet the housing demand created by job growth – but also construction of residences priced at an attainable level for workers earning average local incomes.

“We need units to be priced at that level so we can have low- to moderate-income home-

owners,” said Elizabeth Black, executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. “Steamboat doesn’t have enough of that market-type yet.”

Home away from home

The City Council is working with Rees and Boulder consulting firm RRC Associates to create a comprehensive, citywide housing plan, which will set goals and install mechanisms for meeting Steamboat’s affordable housing needs. The Dec. 12 meeting is the next step in creating that plan.

RRC Associates prepared Summit County’s 2005 “Housing Needs Assessment Report,” which identified another leading cause – in addition to job growth – of the decrease in affordable housing in the Breckenridge area: rapidly increasing second-home purchases by non-local buyers.

“Between 2001 and 2004, locals purchased about 31 percent of units sold, 37 percent were purchased by Colorado Front Range residents, and another 30 percent were purchased by out-of-state/country buyers,” the report reads. “Of potential concern is that between 2001 and 2004, the percentage of units sold to locals and priced under $150,000 declined from 58 percent to 44 percent.”

On Tuesday, Rees told Steamboat’s City Council that in 2005, according to the Routt County Assessor’s Office, Steamboat residents bought 38 percent of the new residential units purchased, out-of-state or international buyers purchased 38 percent of new units, Colorado buyers from outside Routt County purchased 22 percent, and Routt County buyers from outside of Steamboat purchased the remaining 2 percent.

Telluride and its Mountain Village area also are seeing a boom in second-home purchases, said San Miguel Regional Housing Authority Director Shirley Greve.

“The two towns are very shortly going to run out of in-town space,” Greve said. Town officials “anticipate having to work with county government, but the only thing they really can’t control and that’s way out of hand – is the free market.”

To the polls

Greve said Telluride and San Miguel County housing officials have established several affordable housing developments, including one that provides 134 apartments for employees of the Telluride R-1 School District. A development of 14 employee units that will open in January, Greve said, “is already completely leased.”

Greve said town and county officials are working to provide affordable home purchases in addition to apartment leases.

In Summit County, voters approved a measure Nov. 7 that will provide annual funding – and an estimated $3.4 million in 2007 – for the region’s new Multi-jurisdictional Housing Authority, formerly the Summit Housing Authority.

Measure 5A will raise Summit County sales taxes 12.5 cents per $100 and is expected to raise $1.4 million next year. In addition, the measure implements “graduated impact fees,” or fees based on square footage and paid by developers of new construction, that are as high as $2 per square foot for units larger than 5,000 square-feet in size. The fees are expected to raise $2 million in 2007.

With the money, Summit’s housing authority hopes to build as many as 50 units of affordable housing every year.

Members of the Steamboat Springs City Council have discussed a ballot measure for 2007 that, if passed, would generate funds for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

Elk River

Elizabeth Black of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority said only a few closings remain on the sale of affordable residences at Fox Creek Village, the site of 30 deed-restricted condominiums on Hilltop Parkway.

Black said the Housing Auth-

ority is making progress on its next project, Elk River Village, which has 4 acres for development on a 10-acre site on Routt County Road 129, just north of U.S. Highway 40.

“We’re hoping to complete a lot of the preliminary work on the project in the next few weeks, then engage in the pre-development activities in 2007,” Black said. “We’re definitely in gear.”

Meanwhile, the City Council will continue developing a housing plan for Steamboat.

Brenner said the plan should use multiple mechanisms for providing housing and funding, such as zoning requirements, incentives for developers, partnerships with public groups and revenue generation through fees and taxes.

“We might be seen as a council that is overly regulatory,” Brenner acknowledged. “But I hope that instead, people look back 10 years from now and think, ‘Those guys were actually looking ahead to provide housing.'”