Our View: Housing SOS
The recently released Mountain Migration report, commissioned by Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, was revealing, and its findings served as further proof that Steamboat Springs, Routt County and other mountain communities are experiencing a true housing crisis that is affecting labor supply, the character of our town, local businesses and an individual’s ability to live where they work.
As more people look to make Routt County their permanent home and others purchase second homes here, housing demand is far outpacing supply, which is driving up home costs and dramatically reducing the supply of affordable housing options for locals. In a survey that was conducted as part of the report, every respondent ranked affordable housing and the availability of housing as severe problems and the top two issues facing mountain communities.
We also took note this past week of Crested Butte boldly issuing a local disaster emergency declaration regarding affordable housing in an attempt to signal to the state and federal governments that the situation their communities face when it comes to housing is dire and akin to a natural disaster. It has still not been determined whether these declarations will actually allow communities to access emergency funding for housing, but it does give local governments the opportunity to be more creative and nimble when pursuing housing solutions.
In Crested Butte, for example, the emergency declaration enables the town to bypass some regulations in its municipal code to make it less burdensome for individuals and developers to build locals housing. Town leaders are also looking at reducing the number of parking spaces required per residential unit and removing limits on camping on private property inside the town limits, according to a Colorado Sun article.
At issue: Steamboat Springs and Routt County are experiencing a true housing emergency.
Our View: Our elected leaders need to declare the issue an emergency and take action quickly to find and implement creative solutions.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Marion Kahn, community representative
• Laraine Martin, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
In our opinion, the housing situation has reached a crisis level and deserves immediate action, and we’d like to see our city and county leaders adopt local emergency declarations similar to the one Crested Butte enacted. This would also signal to local residents that our elected leaders are listening and are committed to more than just talking about the housing issue. The time for focus groups and advisory committees has passed, and we’d like to see housing be at the forefront of every discussion county and city leaders have, because lack of housing is impacting every aspect of community life.
During Tuesday’s joint meeting between Routt County commissioners and the Steamboat Springs City Council, we were glad to see that housing was back on the agenda. During the meeting, Commissioner Tim Corrigan said solving the housing crisis would require something “big,” and we applaud that kind of thinking. It’s going to take outside-the-box thinking, a willingness to put everything on the table for discussion and the political will to fight the “not in my backyard,” or NIMBY, attitude that often is allowed to stall or stop housing projects in our town.
We also recommend our elected leaders dust off the 2016 final report from the Routt County Community Housing Steering Committee, update the data quickly and use it as a guiding document for identifying creative housing solutions.
The process behind the report was thorough and involved a nice cross section of people in the community — business leaders and individuals — who gave a lot of their time and expertise to study the overarching issue of housing demand outpacing supply through four housing lens: seasonal, low-income, entry level and move up. In the final report, the group identified several obstacles that hampered development of affordable housing, including the planning/zoning process, building code restrictions, the cost to build new supply and the vacation-rental marketplace. These obstacles still exist today and are only getting worse, so eliminating or reducing the impact of these obstacles would be a great starting place.
We know housing is a complex, multifaceted issue, but we don’t have another five years to get ahead of this issue, which has now been elevated to a crisis in our eyes. Now is the time for action, and we’re looking to our local elected officials to lead the charge.
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