Steamboat IDs multiple locations for potential affordable housing projects
The Steamboat Springs Housing Committee, made up of City Council members Michael Buccino and Lisel Petis, City Manager Gary Suiter and Planning Director Rebecca Bessey, has identified three tiers of goals for affordable housing the city can help fund.
The two sites that rose to the top of the list included an undeveloped portion of Steamboat Springs Transit parcel for seasonal transit drivers, and the 0.83-acre, residentially zoned parcel in Steamboat Barn Village subdivision, which is adjacent to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Council members and staff said they envisioned the transit site as a dormitory style structure with a common area for cooking. If the city were to move forward with the transit location, council would need to either make an exception in the city’s code to allow dormitory housing in the area or change the code altogether.
While transit would primarily be used as dormitory housing, the site near Yampa Valley Medical Center could include a mix of seasonal housing as well as long-term rental housing for employees, Bessey and Suiter said.
The second tier, which the committee said would be more difficult to implement, included longer-term partnership opportunities such as working with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, Steamboat Springs School District, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. and other large employers to develop employee housing. Committee members emphasized these are longer-term solutions that will take more time to implement.
The third tier options included primarily legislative actions that would require additional research and studies, such as inclusionary zoning, commercial linkage and payments-in-lieu. Each of these measures would cost significant time and money to the city, so the committee said it is likely to take a back seat to the first two tiers, which committee members said are much more timely.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board President Cole Hewitt and Steamboat resident Catherine Carson both spoke to council during their public comment section and encouraged members to build public housing for all residents, not just employees of groups that help fund the housing.
“These are taxpayer funds, and they should be used for the broad community benefit,” Carson said.
Hewitt also encouraged council members to consider public-private partnerships with major employers in town, such as Ski Corp. and the hospital, as grants from the state and federal government are much more likely to come if multiple groups can demonstrate they are working together.
“I urge us to continue to work these partnerships out and not be in competition for some of these funds that are out there,” Hewitt said. “The power in accomplishing this is based on partnerships.”
Buccino, who works as an interior designer, said he encouraged businesses to think creatively in seeking affordable housing opportunities that are still profitable for them.
“The problem I see with affordable housing is people don’t believe they can make money building it,” Buccino said. “Some of these other private entities need to think outside the box and solve our affordable housing in a capitalist, profitable way that they can make money and come up with some really cool affordable housing in our town on private land.”
Petis said while she understood the value of public-private partnerships, she felt if the city were to change zoning rules for housing, it should be for the benefit of those living in the housing, not the developers.
“The point of us creating exceptions to some of the planning stuff isn’t to pad pickets and give someone more money to exploit their own employees,” Petis said. “It’s to create affordable housing for people.”
While council members did not make any formal decisions in their Tuesday meeting, they agreed to continue discussions and begin conversations with other community entities, then begin applying for federal and state grants.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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