Our View: Housing study needs responses
June 1, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Of the many issues raised by the proposed Steamboat 700 development, the need to accurately identify the specific housing needs of our community shoots to the top of the list.
For years, we have developed comprehensive plans and enacted policies aimed at providing affordable housing for Steamboat’s work force, but many of those decisions were made without a complete picture of the existing circumstances and needs of the local market. A much-needed effort to provide such data is now under way, in the form of a market demand analysis commissioned by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and funded by the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, the developers of Steamboat 700 and a number of other private developers and businesses. The analysis will cost between $125,000 and $150,000.
When completed in August, the market demand analysis will provide the clearest picture to date of Steamboat’s work force, its income and its housing needs and preferences. The analysis, being conduced by Robert Charles Lesser & Co., will give local officials an invaluable database of information for devising policies related to affordable housing.
In short, the market demand analysis has the potential to take the guesswork out of determining how and to what extent affordable housing should be mandated within the city limits.
The issue came to a head earlier this year when Steamboat 700 developers proposed aiming their affordable housing at residents making an average of 120 percent of the area median income. The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which outlines how residential development should occur in that area, requires developers to provide affordable housing to people who make an average of 80 percent of the AMI.
Danny Mulcahy of Steamboat 700 and others correctly have suggested a need to provide a range of affordable housing for different segments of the population, with a focus on providing the type of housing needed by the kinds of workers the community is most interested in retaining.
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The market demand analysis should provide the data needed to better guide our housing policies. But the market demand analysis only will be as good as the information it can collect and assemble. To that end, Yampa Valley Housing Authority officials are seeking feedback from residents in the form of a detailed survey. Yampa Valley Housing Authority executive director Donna Howell said the surveys will be distributed through local employers in early July. We urge employers to pass the surveys on to their workers and to provide time and possibly incentives for employees to complete the detailed, 30-minute questionnaires.
The answers provided by our work force will provide a foundation for understanding our housing needs. Regardless of whether you support subsidized affordable housing, it’s clear that any decisions regarding it should be made with hard data rather than anecdotal evidence and guesswork.