John Spezia: Citizens must stay involved with housing initiatives |

John Spezia: Citizens must stay involved with housing initiatives

I would like to congratulate the folks who promoted the 5A affordable housing property tax and especially commend the energy and motivation of Catherine Carson. Since the entire community is now contributing to the affordable housing fund, it is important that the citizens be involved and participate to make sure that their investment is used fairly among the three housing segments mentioned in the ballot initiative.

The ballot language of this initiative aims to set aside new property tax dollars for building 41 percent of the new housing for seasonal workers, 41 percent for low-income workers and 17 percent for entry-level, middle-income professions.

The seasonal workers’ housing needs look promising as the large local employers can form a partnership with the YVHA, which can bring to the table development expertise and property tax waivers along with the property tax funds approved by the voters.

While funding rental housing for low-wage income individuals is not easy, there are federal and state tax credits available to people with annual incomes of less than 60 percent of annual median income (approximately $35,000).

Last year the Yampa Valley Housing Authority used $400,000 from the inactive inclusionary zoning fund to leverage $12 million dollars worth of tax credits for the 48 rental units at The Reserves. The YVHA will be able to replicate more of these rental units, and low-wage income people will have a safe and comfortable place to live as their housing costs will be supplemented by the new property tax.

Additionally, business owners, many of whom advocated for this ballot initiative, will be better able to meet the challenges of finding more low-wage income workers to meet the housing needs of their workforce.

For those folks looking for affordable, for-purchase homes, the future does not look as good. There is a shortage of these homes because they are less profitable to build and sell, and we live in a highly speculative and expensive housing market. Since there is no funded and staffed advocacy group to promote the creation of affordable entry-level homes, the dream of buying a home may still be out of reach for many middle-income professions such as nurses, teachers, police, firefighters, government employees and many others.

In several ski communities in Colorado the for-purchase, entry-level home is and has been a priority of their affordable housing programs. Similarly, some ski communities have drawn the line where if 45 percent of the homes are not locally owned they will take action to prevent losing their community character. These communities understand that middle-class families are not looking for a handout but rather a hand-up.

Those individual bread winners or dual income families earning $75,000 to $95,000, who can afford $300,000 to $450,000 homes are now contributing to the affordable housing funds, indirectly through rent or purchasing of products or services in our community. They may want to weigh in to make sure there is a balance in meeting the entry-level affordable home needs.

John Spezia

Steamboat Springs

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