The idea of a multijurisdictional housing authority to oversee affordable housing didn’t exactly go over smoothly in meetings with South Routt residents.
At a meeting in Yampa, a resident called the housing authority concept “just another scam to subsidize the tourist industry in Steamboat.”
A week later in Oak Creek, Town Trustee Ken Kien dismissed the idea by saying, “If Steamboat would take care of this problem they created, our problem would disappear.”
Such responses are not altogether surprising. Resentment of Steamboat, particularly by residents of other communities in the county, is nothing new.
Steamboat is not a big city but compared to towns like Yampa, Oak Creek, Hayden and Phippsburg, it is. Most of the growth in Routt County is driven by Steamboat. And when it comes to affordable housing, Steamboat is the only city in the county that doesn’t have it.
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No wonder some, such as Kien, see housing as strictly a Steamboat problem.
But that’s an isolated view of the problem.
True, the average price of a home in Steamboat is three times that of a home in Oak Creek, Hayden or Yampa. Thank goodness that’s the case. Otherwise, many of the people who work in Steamboat Springs would have no place to live. Steamboat is the job base and thus a critical component of the economies of all the towns in the county. If Steamboat has a housing problem, by extension, the rest of the county does, too. A housing authority would have the power to levy taxes, condemn property and issue tax-exempt bonds, and, as we have said before, its creation would be the strongest step yet toward solving our affordable housing problem. The city of Steamboat Springs has already indicated its support for the authority, as have Routt County commissioners. Likely, the housing authority will be created whether Oak Creek or Yampa chooses to participate. And even without their participation, a housing authority could still undertake projects in those communities.
But it would be disappointing if it comes to that.
When one community in Routt County has a problem, that problem generally has an impact on the other communities as well. Right now, the problem is affordable housing and the housing authority offers an opportunity for all the communities in the county to work together to solve it. Let’s hope the communities of South Routt can find a way to be a part of the solution.
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