Steamboat council will explore more affordable housing partnerships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As the Yampa Valley Housing Authority moves forward on its next project, Steamboat Springs City Council expressed interest in pursuing a collaborative approach to affordable housing.
Council talked about reaching out to employers or public entities, like the school district, which may want to contribute to a project and reserve a portion of units for their employees.
Council member Sonja Macys pointed to a project underway in Basalt, which will include office space, a mix of free-market and affordable housing, an arts center and a restaurant.
The discussion grew out of a work session Tuesday, March 10, during which council reviewed allocations to the Community Housing Fund that had a balance of $660,000 at the end of 2019, according to Finance Director Kim Weber.
About $471,000 of those funds is truly unrestricted, she said, as the remaining $188,000 is joint funding with Routt County. The fund has a handful of revenue sources and has historically been used for various housing-related expenditures.
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Established in 2007, guidelines state, “the funds shall be used for the purpose of planning, subsidizing, developing and administering community housing. The city may allocate these funds to an entity that agrees to acquire land or units that will be devoted to the Community Housing Program.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Jason Peasley, executive director of the housing authority, submitted a request for $500,000 from the fund to be used in support of the housing authority’s next planned project. Peasley explained that as the housing authority applies for competitive tax credits, it makes a significant difference to show buy-in from the city, as well as having the committed dollars.
The housing authority is beginning the funding process for its next project — with the goal of opening in 2022. The location is yet to be determined. The future development involves a public-private partnership between the housing authority and Overland Property Group, which was involved in The Reserves of Steamboat project, completed in 2017, and Alpenglow Village.
According to Peasley, the housing authority is looking at four sources of funding: federal tax credits, state investment, debt/equity and local investment. The $500,000 from the city’s Community Housing Fund would go toward offsetting water and sewer tap fees and land purchase.
Dagny McKinley, development coordinator for Steamboat Creates, pitched council on waiting until July to allocate the funds, so her group can be further along in pursuing the potential construction of a performing arts center, which could include housing for the community’s creatives. Not in competition with the housing authority, she said, but possibly in collaboration.
McKinley said the creative arts and the artists who create add to the city’s economy and increase quality of life and also are in need of affordable housing.
Council debated potential uses for the unallocated money sitting in the fund and discussed things like the value of subsidizing ownership over rentals, adding housing units to the new firehouse, restructuring debt, debt forgiveness and the need for seasonal housing.
Asked about demand, Peasley cited the 250 households currently on the waiting list for The Reserves. With three or four of the 48 units turning over every year, that would take about 50 years to get through the waitlist, he said.
Asked about collaborating with other employers and groups, Peasley said he has had some “foundation level conversations” but without any solid results at this time.
Council members agreed the housing authority has proven results, and the $500,000 is a good way to leverage dollars toward the goal of putting more units on the market. But they also agreed they wanted a few more options on the table, such as the Steamboat Creates pitch.
Council discussed having its members reach out to employers for potential partnerships and putting out a request for proposals for the Community Housing Fund money. A decision was made to revisit the spending options in May or June and open the door to more possibilities.
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