Routt County revisits housing crunch, this time with the matrix on its side
Steamboat Springs — More than 60 energetic (some might say courageous) people turned out at the Steamboat Springs Community Center July 18 to take another crack at easing Routt County’s super-tight housing market by participating in four working groups tasked with studying the barriers and opportunities in four distinct segments of the overall housing market.
Community Housing Steering Committee Chairman Dan Pirrallo was succinct in describing the problem each working group will take on. Simply put, he said, “housing demand is outpacing supply.”
“We have a lot of history about housing here, and we can’t forget the history,” Pirrallo told the group. “But we need to begin moving beyond what has happened in the past.”
Pirrallo, general manager of the Sheraton Steamboat, urged those in attendance to attach themselves to a working group focused on one of four distinct housing markets — from housing for seasonal workers to households seeking to move up to larger permanent homes — and engage in a disciplined process to analyze the housing supply and challenges within those markets.
And they don’t have much time. The steering committee wants reports from the working groups in as few as eight weeks, so it can make recommendations to local governments by early December.
A sampling of comments from the various working groups in their formative phase Monday included: “Is it important for seasonal workers to live close to their jobs?”
One 40-year resident wondered where she would be without her mobile home.
Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Jim Clark ventured that the scarcity of housing was already deterring entrepreneurs from opening new businesses here.
The city of Steamboat Springs tried to tackle the problem a decade ago with disappointing results, but this time, the approach is countywide, and in 2016, local housing warriors have “The Matrix” on their side.
In this case, The Matrix isn’t a motion picture starring Keanu Reeves, but a grid that will provide a snapshot of the four markets, the households that reside in them and the challenges they face. Pirrallo urged those in attendance to study their housing sector through the “lenses” of demographics, demand, supply, obstacles, consequences, solutions and opportunities in order to define what success looks like.
“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.”
The four segments of the housing market include the following.
• Rental housing for seasonal workers;
• Permanent housing for residents who are apt to live in an apartment or rented mobile home, whose household income is 60 percent of the median here;
• The entry-level market, which comprises permanent residents seeking to purchase a home for less than $310,000, including condos and single-family homes in outlying communities; and,
• The move-up market, in which permanent residents aspire to homes priced between $310,000 and $660,000.
“There may be hard choices we have to make to move the housing market forward,” Pirrallo concluded.
There is still time to get involved with one of the housing groups. Those interested in serving can contact B. Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-870-0167.
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