Sunlight Crossing rents higher than expected as median income is up 12%

The area median income in Routt County is $71,700 for 2022

The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is currently working to complete Sunlight Crossing on the west side of Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Sunlight Crossing is getting closer to leasing out homes, but what renters may ultimately pay could be higher than some locals expect.

There are two key reasons for the higher rent payments at the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s latest project. First, Sunlight Crossing has always been planned as a development targeted at the “missing middle,” or people with an income between 80% and 120% of Routt County’s median income.

The second reason has to do with the county’s median income, which has increased by about 12% since last year. In 2021, Routt County’s median income was $64,100. Now, it’s $71,700, according to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority.

“This is not a low-income, tax-credit property. It is that next level, and with the increase in area median income and rent limits, it’s probably going to shock some people,” said Alyssa “La La” Cartmill, asset and property manager for the housing authority.

There isn’t a date for when the lottery to get into Sunlight Crossing will start, as Cartmill said she is still waiting on the building’s temporary certificate of occupancy. When that is in place, lease-up could start as soon as two weeks later.

The rent rates for Sunlight Crossing will likely be published next week, and they could approach the max rental rates for respective apartment sizes and income levels outlined by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Cartmill said.

For example, a one-bedroom apartment priced at 120% area median income has a max rent of $2,304 per month.

The 90-unit Sunlight Crossing development includes studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom configurations. When considering the updated AMI, the complex is targeted for single people who make between $57,360 and $86,040, or a family of four making between $81,840 and $122,760.

“We’re serving a higher income, which is why you are going to see higher rents,” said Jason Peasley, executive director of the housing authority. “Everyone is familiar with the lower rent stuff that we have provided, but the struggle for a lot of folks is they make too much money.”

Peasley said that while these people may make a pretty good wage, they still can’t compete in the local housing market and don’t qualify for the subsidized units the housing authority has pushed to build.

“By building the middle-income housing, we’re able to start supporting a different demographic,” Peasley said. “(They are) less service workers and folks like that, and more like professionals and critical workers like police and firefighters.”

One of the problems with housing locally is that there is a big jump between the subsidized low-income units the housing authority has built and something that would be considered market rate. The hope is that eventually there will be a broader array of units that people could move in and out of as their family situation changes.

“This project in conjunction with all the other stuff that we’re working on, ideally, will create that mobility opportunity for folks,” Peasley said.

On potential benefit to the local increase in AMI is that more people will be eligible for a unit at Sunlight Crossing, Cartmill said. Still, everyone won’t get one, as 868 people have already expressed interest in getting a unit.

Kimball Crangle, the Colorado Market President for Gorman and Company, the developer of Sunlight Crossing, said while AMI increases locally seem staggering, incomes actually rose slightly less than the national average of 12.5%. For 2022, the national median income in the United States was $90,000, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We need it all,” Cringle said. “We need the whole spectrum of housing on the for rent side, on the for sale side.”

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