One part of the solution: Steamboat Chamber brings together various entities to work on affordable housing crisis |

One part of the solution: Steamboat Chamber brings together various entities to work on affordable housing crisis

As Routt County’s affordable housing crisis continues, the Steamboat Springs Chamber has formed a task force with more than a dozen community partners to work on collaborative solutions.

The task force includes the city of Steamboat Springs, the town of Hayden, the Steamboat Springs School District, Routt County and various local nonprofits and businesses.

Chamber Executive Director Kara Stoller said the committee is meant to increase communication between multiple community stakeholders in hopes of sparking creative solutions to a multifaceted problem.

“If one group has land and another has capital, we want them to be able to work together,” Stoller said. “These projects can be hard to bring about.”

The chamber has also issued a survey to its members, which are various businesses around the community, asking which employees need housing, what kind of housing is needed and what are the biggest local barriers to renting and buying.

Stoller said the Brown Ranch development will be a “phenomenal long-term solution” but acknowledged that building housing and annexing it into the city could be several years down the road, so the task force’s goal is to brainstorm more short-term solutions.

Yampa Valley Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley said because the housing authority has limited abilities, it’s important for other community groups to work simultaneously on building housing for employees and patrons.

“There’s no one agency that can really do everything in this realm, and I applaud the businesses who are stepping up and taking the initiative to do it on their own,” Peasley said. “Some organizations are large enough that they can do some things; they have the resources and expertise to get that done.”

Members of the chamber committee said while progress is still in its early phases, some groups, such as the city of Steamboat, have begun working on tangible solutions.

The city appointed its own committee several months ago, comprised of City Council members, the city’s planning director and city manager.

Steamboat City Manager Gary Suiter said Tuesday the city has started working with local architectural firm Eric Smith Associates to design plans for workforce housing units on city land near the Barn Village subdivision, where the city owns a 0.83-acre, residentially zoned parcel, and the Steamboat Springs Transit Center on 13th Street.

While the city ultimately hopes to build affordable housing for employees across the county, Suiter said the first two developments would likely only be used for city employees but would be open to anyone who needs housing if there is a vacancy.

“Our employees are employees of the county, and they’re local employees, as well, so they also have limited options when it comes to housing,” Suiter said. “We also provide services that need to be responsive, so having everybody come in from the hinterland isn’t necessarily helpful.”

Another member of the chamber’s task force, Colorado Mountain College, has announced a $40 million project to build 30 to 40 housing units near each of its campuses, which includes its Steamboat location.

Colorado Mountain College Vice President and Steamboat campus dean JC Norling said while the housing will only be for the college’s students, he hopes that it will free up housing stock in the community that may have otherwise gone to students.

“Steamboat is a great place to live, people want to be here, and I think with COVID, people decided not to stay in the city and move up to the mountains,” Norling said Tuesday. “People who had the resources made cash offers on homes, so that’s tough for people that are working at all levels.”

Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco, who sits on the chamber committee, said the town will likely play a role in affordable housing for years to come, as what was once a more affordable option for young families and workforce members to buy their first home is quickly becoming more costly.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hayden had a home ownership rate of over 70%, Mendisco said. COVID-19 and the migration to mountain towns has brought difficulties for those hoping to rent and buy in Hayden, he said.

“How do we get our teachers and families and everyone else to afford real estate equity by being able to purchase?” Mendisco said. “Our goal is to get folks that are low AMI (average median income) housing that they can afford.”

Ulrich Salzgeber, CEO of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, said the chamber committee is working to bring public-private partnerships together, as government and private agencies sometimes bring different perspectives.

“There’s just some really creative ideas,” Salzgeber said.

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