Town considers buying into affordable housing

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— In Steamboat, affordable housing is defined by the Regional Affordable Living Foundation as homes in the $120,000 to $150,000 price range. Hayden's Town Board members believe that number is still too high for the tiny bedroom community and they want to do something about it.

The Town Board recently began discussed the possibility of purchasing a parcel of land in the Hayden area that it would in turn develop, subdivide and sell to mobile home owners for mobile home use -- thus ensuring the property would not only be affordable but would also follow town covenants.

Hayden Mayor Pro Tem Jim Haskins is leading the affordable housing discussion in Hayden.

"If something like this was available, I think it would appeal to a lot of people, but mostly those who are currently renting and want to buy. No one is going to provide stick-built homes or modular homes that would be affordable. I gauge affordable by if the town employees can afford to buy it. If they can't afford these $120,000 homes, then in my opinion, they're not affordable," Haskins said. "If the developers aren't willing to invest in a project like this, then I say why not the town?"

The issue of trailer parks being used for affordable housing is something Town Board members have been dealing with for a number of years. Problems stemming from a growth boom in the '60s and '70s left the town with parks that do not follow town setback requirements or are run down, Haskins said.

"The board has taken a black-and-white view of regulations on the local parks. We want to try to clean them up. I don't think people keep them clean because they don't own the property," he said. "We realize there is a need for affordable housing and this is a good way to go. If the town owned the development, we'd have an easier job of enforcing the covenants, we wouldn't have absentee owners and we won't be concerned with making a profit. All the money could be reinvested back into operations and maintenance of the park. It could be clean, and truly affordable."

Hayden Town Manager Rob Straebel said he is meeting with realtors and members of RALF to further pursue gathering information on the issue.

"We're looking to find a parcel of land that would be compatible for this project," Straebel said. "There will be some reluctance on the part of home owners to have a trailer park next to the residential areas. But, with the proper zoning, open spaces and density and setback requirements, it could be an asset to the community."

RALF Director Rob Dick said he is 100 percent in favor of the project.

"I think it's a fabulous idea. It doesn't matter who buys the property, whether it's a developer or the town, as long as it gets done," he said. "Currently, if somebody buys a mobile home and puts it on a rented pad, the land appreciates but the home depreciates in value. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It makes all the difference in the world having property that appreciates in value."

Dick said that RALF fully supports this type of affordable housing program and that his group will offer assistance if the town asks for it.

"We stand ready, willing and able to help the town do what ever they need to do to get this off the ground," Dick said.


-- To reach Bryna Larsen, call 871-4205 or e-mail blarsen@amigo.net

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