Steamboat City Council repeals code that aimed to build affordable housing | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council repeals code that aimed to build affordable housing

Opponents worry repeal would eliminate city's role in providing local affordable housing

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs’ community housing ordinance, frequently called inclusionary zoning, required developers to either build homes deed restricted to people making a certain income, dedicate land or pay a fee. Though it’s been on the books since 2006, a now seven-year-long suspension of that section of city code means it hasn’t been in use since 2013.

The Steamboat Springs City Council repealed the ordinance on second reading last week, permanently taking it off city books, in a 5 to 2 vote, with council members Heather Sloop and Sonja Macys opposed.

The conversation at the Tuesday, Aug. 27, meeting sounded similar to previous discussions about the ordinance. Those who opposed the repeal worried it would eliminate the city’s mechanism to impact affordable housing in the community. Those in favor said the community supported affordable housing by approving the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s 1-mill property tax in 2017.   

Inclusionary zoning was first suspended in 2013 after the recession, as developers criticized the ordinance, saying it was unfair and difficult to sell the affordable units they were building.

Council President Jason Lacy opposed the repeal at first reading but voted in favor of it on Tuesday.

Lacy’s vote flipped with assurances from the rest of the council members that they wanted to ask the Planning Commission to consider a number of measures to boost affordable housing in the community, including a revised version of inclusionary zoning. Lacy has said he would prefer to see an inclusionary zoning ordinance with different, more targeted parameters to require high-end developments build or support affordable housing.

Sloop felt it was “short-sighted” for the city to repeal the code, saying that doing so leaves “no plan on the books in our code.” She wanted the community housing code to remain on the books to ensure this and future councils would keep policies to encourage affordable housing in mind.

“From my perspective, even if it is stagnant at this point, it is still a pony in the race,” she said. “It might be a three-legged pony at this point, but it’s keeping that window open to ensure that there are other options available that we can explore.”

Macys explained there are “some really inspiring things” happening in ski towns with inclusionary zoning. More than not repealing the suspended code, she wanted to see it in place again.

Other council members pointed to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s use of revenue from 5A as a solution replacing the code. Council Member Robin Crossan said the community agreed to move toward fixing the problem in approving it.

“We do have something in place,” she said. “This community in the (2017 Community Survey) said housing is No. 1, and the community then stood by that and said, ‘Yes, I’m willing to do 1-mill to help with that.’”

Council Member Scott Ford said he saw the community housing code as a “backdoor tax,” and that if more funding is needed, the Housing Authority could return to voters with a ballot question.

“The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is in, what I would call, the housing business. They do housing business,” he said. “If we start to, again, become a funding source, and we’re holding the money, we get ourselves back in the housing business.”

Members of the council also said they could do more in supporting their own employees in affording to live in Steamboat. City Manager Gary Suiter told the council earlier in the meeting that the city’s pay ranges needed to increase to stay competitive and is already contributing to turnover.

In public comment, three people spoke in favor of keeping the code in place. Many of them had previously asked the council to keep inclusionary zoning in place.

“I urge you to take the time to become well-informed on this issue, the funding tools for affordable housing, the strategies for affordable housing that are being widely used in other communities,” said Steamboat resident Diane Brower. “There is no reason to get rid of inclusionary zoning until you’ve studied closely, become informed of what the other tools are and whether they actually will work as a replacement for affordable housing.”

City Council has set three values to incorporate into its goals for housing in the community, including:

  • The ability for those that are employed in Steamboat Springs to also live in Steamboat Springs if they choose to.
  • The cost of housing is not such a significant financial burden that it precludes other life essentials.
  • The opportunity for families with children to live in Steamboat Springs if they choose to.

City Council is expected to adopt an index on Tuesday, Sept. 3, that intends to measure its success in meeting those goals.

For now, inclusionary zoning code will not play a role in meeting those goals.

To view the City Council’s discussion on this topic, visit steamboatsprings.net/agendas.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.


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