Income requirements prevent some residents from moving in at Sunlight Crossing

Lease-up process hasn't been easy, but it is helping YVHA better plan for its next project

About a third of residents have moved in at Sunlight Crossing as of Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. While the process hasn't been easy, it has informed how to improve future projects.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

About a third of the apartments at the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Sunlight Crossing development are occupied, with more people expected to move in this week.

By the end of the week, the 90-unit complex aimed at middle-income workers should be about 45% occupied with more lease agreements set to start Oct. 1, according to YVHA’s Regional Property Manager Alyssa “La La” Cartmill.

While the lease-up process at Sunlight Crossing is progressing, it hasn’t been easy.

“I think we’ve had every curveball possible thrown at us through this process,” Cartmill told the housing authority board last week. “We’re wasting a lot of time getting through certain phases with people, only to learn they don’t make the income that they state or don’t have the proper documentation.

“Or they’re just over the 80% (area median income) and they break down in tears when they learn their rent goes up $1,000 for the 120% (area median income) two-bedroom because that’s the only next level,” Cartmill continued.

Still, the project has led to mobility for some local workers, allowing them to move out of one housing authority unit and into another as their income and family situation changes.

It has also been a learning experience for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, and Executive Director Jason Peasley said the authority is already putting some of those lessons into action for Mid-Valley, the authority’s next housing project for middle-income workers.

“The lesson that we are implementing at Mid Valley is more stratification (of income levels),” Peasley said.

The kitchen inside a two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit at the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Sunlight Crossing development on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

After more than 800 residents put their names on an interest list for Sunlight Crossing, about 450 people signed up for a lottery to see who would be offered leases.

Cartmill said they have progressed about halfway through that list so far. There isn’t a target date to have all the units leased, but Cartmill said she wants to complete this process “as fast as possible.”

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Cartmill said the first step after reaching out to lottery winners is to have the potential residents fill out applications. That requires obtaining documents from the applicants’ employers to verify employment and income, and then all that goes to a compliance officer, who verifies information on the application.

Once applicants have gone through verification, Cartmill said they can potentially sign a lease. However, some locals are getting through compliance only to find out they can’t afford the rent on the unit they are eligible for.

“(Last week was) a very emotional week,” Cartmill told the housing authority board. “We had four files that went through compliance that all said no and are in tears about it because they just can’t pay that gap.”

The lobby area of Sunlight Crossing, a middle-income focused development on the west side of Steamboat Springs, as seen on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Half of the units at Sunlight are priced at 80% of the area median income, which jumped 12% earlier this year to $71,700 a year. Cartmill said there are still some two-bedroom units at this level available. There are 23 units priced at 120% AMI and another 22 that don’t have any income restrictions.

Serving workers in the so-called missing middle has always been the goal of the Sunlight Crossing project. With units targeting varying incomes throughout Steamboat, the housing authority also hopes to allow for mobility as a resident’s income or family grows.

Cartmill said there are already examples of people living in Sunlight who have worked their way through various housing authority units over the years.

“It’s fun as an organization to see that trying to create that mobility for residents is actually working,” Cartmill said. “We’ve got one resident that started at Hillside Village Apartments, then they were able to move into The Reserves (at Steamboat), and from The Reserves, they’re now able to move into Sunlight.”

A common area inside the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Sunlight Crossing Development on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Peasley said one challenge with middle-income projects is that they are not eligible for the same low-income housing tax credits that previous developments like The Reserves at Steamboat got. Nearly $11 million in such credits made that development possible in 2015.

Mid Valley, which is starting to move through the city’s planning process, is based on a parcel of land along U.S. Highway 40 on the south end of Steamboat that the housing authority acquired with an anonymous donation last year.

Early plans include 200 units, with a mix of rentals and units for sale. Work on the property is expected to start next year.

“At Sunlight Crossing, we got the best deal we could get at that time,” Peasley said. “We’re learning from it. We’re implementing all of those lessons going forward. … There will always be a new lesson, and it’s incumbent upon us to be looking out for those lessons and use that information … to make the next project better.”

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