Our view: Housing demand outpacing supply | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Housing demand outpacing supply

At issue

Finding the key to stimulating community housing in a resort market

Our view

We are encouraged by early signals sent by the housing task force asked to recommend strategies for improving housing options for people who live and work here.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect from the July 18 meeting of the Community Housing Steering Committee when it convened four citizen working groups to analyze the supply of four distinct categories of community housing.

The categories range from housing that is most suitable for seasonal workers all the way up to well-established households seeking to move up in the market that could cost upwards of $600,000. Between those two categories, there is the market for people living and working here full time but whose household income is 60 percent for less of the median in Routt County. And one more step up the price ladder is a group of permanently employed people in the entry-level market who seek to purchase homes for less than $310,000.

It was a positive thing to see more than 60 people, reflecting different generations and backgrounds, turn out at the Steamboat Springs Community Center this week to engage in the process, which includes not only Steamboat Springs, but also all of Routt County. Their apparent energy and fresh perspectives are desirable qualities.

Those of us who lived through the community’s disappointing “affordable” initiatives a decade ago are familiar with the pitfalls that are out there. But, from what we’ve observed, this latest initiative is in good hands and setting out on a path that promises to be productive, at least in terms of defining the challenges we face.

Steering committee Chairman Dan Pirrallo, who is the general manager of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and represents the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, has imposed a form of external discipline on the working groups. He has given them only eight weeks to make their recommendations to the steering committee so that group can, in turn, make recommendations to officials of local governments by early December.

We think that was a wise move that should prevent members of the groups from becoming bogged down in endless debate.

Further, Pirrallo tasked the four groups with collecting pertinent data from the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, Yampa Valley Data Partners the Chamber and state and federal agencies. He urged all four to evaluate the data using the same criteria (Pirrallo refers to them as “lenses”). The criteria include demographics, quantifying housing demand, looking at the obstacles surrounding current housing supply and the consequences they pose, solutions and opportunities.

Pirrallo urged the groups not to stray off into the weeds.

“The best tool we think you should use to move forward is the lenses,” Pirrallo said. “They are intended to help you move forward. Work through the matrix to provide the steering committee with some hard solutions.”

We hope that, as the working groups carry out their roles, members of the steering committee will also consult with housing authorities and government officials in other mountain towns, from Jackson, Wyoming, to Eagle, Summit and Pitkin counties, to learn from their experiences.

As difficult as the task of the working groups will be, we understand from lessons learned between 2005 and 2008 that the most difficult part of this process lurks beyond the committee’s work and lies in determining where the land for new housing projects will come from, who will build them and how the costs of creating and maintaining public infrastructure for new residential projects will be borne.

The committee’s final recommendations aren’t likely to be the cure-all for our housing problem, but we’re encouraged to see the community re-engaging behind this essential need.

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