Our view: Steamboat’s middle class at risk | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Steamboat’s middle class at risk

At issue:

Confronting Steamboat Springs’ housing shortage

Our view:

The character of our community is defined by our middle class families.

We have no quarrel with the city of Steamboat Springs Planning Commission’s decision Nov. 24 to reject homeowners’ requests to retroactively legitimize their illegal secondary units on Buena Vista Court. To do otherwise might have had unintended consequences throughout the city.

At issue:

Confronting Steamboat Springs’ housing shortage

That said, it’s difficult to ignore the irony of this sticky situation nine days before the city’s housing steering committee hosts a public meeting to unveil strategies for bolstering future housing supply. The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Dec. 13 at Centennial Hall.

Members of the steering committee’s working groups will unveil their recommendations to meet housing demand in four distinct markets. They include rental housing for seasonal workers, permanent housing for people apt to live in an apartment or rented mobile home, the entry level market (permanent residents seeking a home to buy for less than $310,000) and move-up buyers able to pay up to $660,000 for a home.

What we expect to hear is that the community is well behind the curve in terms of demand and catching up implies a willingness to overcome preconceived opinions about growth.

You can expect to hear Dec. 13 that we, as a community, have failed to provide an environment where the private sector can create enough housing units to meet demand. The failure includes local government, which sets the playing field with its planning and zoning regulations and its will to invest in the infrastructure required to support housing growth.

We hope the community will listen to the findings of the steering community with open minds because we are convinced that the fate of our middle class, which makes Steamboat a desirable place to live, is at stake.

While other ski towns are urgently seeking to restore a middle class within their core, Steamboat has a strong middle class in search of a place where its members can afford to live. And to be fair, Buena Vista Court, near the intersection of Hilltop Parkway and Tamarack Drive, has been one of those places. 

It’s plain to see from the aerial photo of the neighborhood published in Steamboat Today, that from the beginning, the seven-home neighborhood had built-in challenges. Some homes shared driveways, and there is virtually no parking at the curb. That’s not an ideal situation, and parking conflicts were pre-ordained.

There are four illegal secondary units spread among seven homes on Buena Vista. And it’s still possible the owners of the forbidden apartments will still successfully appeal their case to City Council.

We think the city’s residential subdivisions will continue to be dotted with homes where the owners’ unsanctioned apartments fly under the radar. In some cases, those unsanctioned housing units are in sight of other neighborhoods where secondary units are approved, and the sub-leasing of bedrooms is commonplace.

The situation on Buena Vista Court is, in part, a result of our failure to take the actions needed to provide adequate housing supply. The same has resulted in a housing market where the rent for a one-bedroom apartment is an unaffordable $1,200 a month.

We have a strong middle class in Steamboat Springs; let’s not price them out of the community.

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