Steamboat City Council modernizes outdated ordinance to help with housing crisis
Steamboat Springs used to have an ordinance only allowing three unrelated people to live together in a single-family unit and five in a multi-family unit.
Rebecca Bessey, Steamboat planning director, said the ordinance was originally implemented in the 1960s with the intent of “preserving neighborhood character” but has since contributed to Steamboat’s affordable housing crisis.
“It’s not necessarily uncommon in community zoning codes, though there is a trend to move away from this,” Bessey said. “This would increase opportunities for housing in our community.”
In an effort to move away from what Bessey considered an outdated rule, Steamboat Springs City Council members Tuesday voted 4-3 to change the code requirement from three unrelated people to five in a single unit. Council President Jason Lacy and members Sonja Macys and Heather Sloop voted against the proposal as they wanted to send it back to the city’s planning commission for more information.
Jason Peasley, executive director of Yampa Valley Housing Authority, said because Steamboat lacks a supply of housing, many residents are illegally cramming into small condos and apartments.
“Whether we like it or not, overcrowding happens in this community, and it’s a result of our lack of supply,” Peasley said. “Given the current circumstances we’re in, anything is going to help.”
Peasley encouraged council to pass the law ahead of the winter season, which is when many flock to town and end up living in cramped quarters.
“We’ve got a lot of people and businesses looking for employees and a lot of employees looking for housing. That housing is very limited,” Peasley said. “That could be a help to our current crisis situation.”
Rob Perlman, president and COO of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., wrote a letter to council encouraging members to increase the number of unrelated persons allowed.
“Increasing beds allows our local economy to thrive by having a robust workforce that can fulfill the employment needs of our community,” Perlman said. “Our community needs to explore all possible solutions to alleviate this crisis.“
While the point of council’s discussion Tuesday was to focus on increasing the number of allowed occupants, council also wanted to explore the number of people living in one unit and to consider regulating that per square foot, similar to what the city Vail does.
“Do we really want to create a situation where employers can pay people low wages and require them to live on top of their neighbors?” Macys questioned.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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