Our View: City assistance is a good start | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: City assistance is a good start

Last week's Steamboat Springs City Council decision to provide funding to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority for a down payment assistant program was a positive step for the relationship between the two entities and for the qualifying residents who stand to benefit from the program.

What the council did Tuesday was give unanimous support to releasing $100,000 in funds from a larger pool of money the city has collected from developers via the fee-in-lieu option of the Community Housing Ordinance. The $100,000 will add to the Housing Authority's fledgling down payment assistance program, which Housing Authority Asset Program Manager Mary Alice Page-Allen hopes will have as much as $250,000 by the end of 2010. Nearly $210,000 of that amount already is in hand or has been approved by the granting agencies.

Most of the funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to families making 150 percent or less of the area median income. As an example, 100 percent of AMI for a family of four is $80,600. With 90 percent financing, that family could afford to purchase a home that costs as much as $312,299.

Important to note is that the Housing Authority's down payment assistance program is financed by three primary funding sources: $53,000 from the Housing Authority; $53,000 from the Colorado Mountain Housing Coalition; and the $100,000 from the city. Each of these funding sources can be used for a maximum of 5 percent of the purchase price of a home, and multiple sources can be combined in one transaction, meaning a family can finance as much as 15 percent of its home purchase through the down payment assistance program. Buyers must bring a minimum of 1 percent of the purchase price to the transaction, and more in most situations, Page-Allen said.

One of the biggest obstacles to home ownership, particularly for middle-class workers, is coming up with a down payment equal to 20 percent of the purchase price. Although a down payment assistance program isn't the end-all, be-all for helping local families achieve home ownership, it's a significant tool and one that should replenish itself as the loans are returned to the Housing Authority and made available to other families for future purchases.

The City Council also last week approved $7,000 in affordable housing funds to be used by the Housing Authority to create a flexible database that will allow for tracking and updating local housing demand and supply. The database tool stems from a recommendation by a citizens committee that the city focus on creating and tracking measurable results from affordable housing initiatives.

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There's other significance to the $107,000 allocated by the city to the Housing Authority last week. We've long urged the city to better embrace the Housing Authority and give it more responsibility for creating and leading affordable housing opportunities in the county. And we've been frustrated in the past by what has appeared to be a lack of desire to do so, as well as the duplication of affordable housing efforts.

Perhaps that's why Tuesday's council decision was so refreshing — we hope it represents a turning in the tide of the relationship between the two agencies. Although the city and county have annually supported the Housing Authority with operating funds, the Housing Authority has struggled to identify other revenue sources needed to create additional housing stock.

The city has been collecting fees in lieu from developers for the past couple of years, and it's nice to see a portion of that money going to a program with the potential to immediately help local families purchase their own homes.

With this latest move, we're optimistic the Housing Authority's role in affordable housing efforts will expand to what was envisioned when the entity was created years ago via a city and county intergovernmental agreement.