Steamboat City Council looks at removing red tape for developers building affordable housing units
Steamboat Springs City Council members asked Steamboat Planning Director Rebecca Bessey to explore removing some of the red tape for developers when 25% to 30% of their proposed housing project is earmarked for affordable housing.
Specifically, these developers would be expedited through the review process that all developers have to go through before building in the city.
“There aren’t very many projects that come in at 100% (affordable housing units), other than maybe a Yampa Valley Housing Authority project,” Bessey said. “I think every unit we can get is a positive.”
The current definition of eligibility for affordable housing consideration also requires that all members of a house be related by blood, marriage or other legal process, have an income earned in Routt County and earn below the city’s area median income, which is $91,400 for a family of four. Council members agreed they wanted to revisit the definition to allow for unrelated roommates to live in affordable units, as well as seasonal workers and remote workers living in the city.
“That’s an important piece of our local housing and to disqualify housing that goes toward that would be quite a mistake,“ said Council President Jason Lacy. ”A lot of people are struggling with that type of housing right now.“
According to the city’s code, affordable housing in Steamboat is defined as a residential dwelling unit for which an individual or family, with an income equal to or less than 120% of the median income for the county, pays no more than 30% of their monthly income as a rental or mortgage payment.
Tuesday was the first time City Council had discussed a specific affordable housing threshold that developers would have to meet, and all seven council members emphasized the 25% to 30% number was a suggestion, and that number could be higher or lower based on public comment and input from the Planning Commission, which will eventually discuss the issue. Council member Sonja Macys said she thought the number was too low and instead asked for a 36% to 50% requirement.
“What I don’t want to see is a whole lot of people deciding that they’re going to pop up these affordable housing rental markets because truly they’re going to make money from them,” Macys said.
In contrast, Lacy asked for the number to be closer to 25% so developers would be incentivized to build affordable housing, which all City Council members agreed was the biggest crisis currently facing the city.
“If it’s a 12-unit project, 25% would mean three units,” Lacy said. “That would be really meaningful to have, especially right now, with housing being as tight as it is.”
Council members Michael Buccino and Heather Sloop said because affordable workforce housing is such a crisis in Steamboat, the city would need to compromise with developers to encourage them to build affordable housing.
“There has to be a palatability for developers to say, ‘Yes, I want to do this,’” Sloop said.
Buccino and council member Robin Crossan also raised concerns about developers offering to build the needed threshold of affordable housing, building the nonaffordable side of their project first, then dropping the ball on the affordable units or deciding at the last-minute not to build affordable units, but Bessey said the review process will require developers to provide a thorough proposal to ensure affordable units are built.
“It’s not just we want this to be affordable, and we hope it all works out,” Bessey saaid. “It would have to be accompanied with a proposal that these units are going to be deed restricted in some fashion.”
Macys and council member Lisel Petis also suggested affordable housing units include not only rental units, but units available for purchase.
“Part of my concern about the whole housing question is are we providing the right kind of housing,” Macys said. “There are a whole lot of rental units, and rental units are not necessarily empowering for people who want to move up.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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