Steamboat Springs voters left little doubt Tuesday as to their opinion of a plan to tax new construction and subsidize affordable housing. The idea was trounced by a 3-to-1 margin.
It was the third time in recent memory that the electorate of the city has soundly defeated a taxation plan it didn't buy into. In 1995, we saw it happen with a $48 million school bond plan. Last fall, it was the Downtown Development Authority's idea to tax a
portion of future property tax growth to pay for public improvements.
Though the votes for the school bond and DDA were similar in that both plans were beaten badly, what happened after the elections was decidedly
different in each case.
The school bond defeat led to a series of cathartic "10+2" meetings at which a broad range of topics and sometimes painful issues were hammered out. In the end, a better school construction plan and a better school system were created. By contrast, after
the DDA was defeated, its board disbanded and the former members have not been heard from since.
It is our hope that following Tuesday's election, the proponents and opponents of Referendum 2A
follow in the schools' footsteps, not the DDA's.
We continue to believe that establishing a
sustainable level of affordable housing is a
worthwhile pursuit that will benefit this community
in many abstract and concrete ways. We also would argue that the time to start working on real affordable housing solutions is now. Each day we wait, the
problem gets tougher and more expensive to solve.
Using local construction growth, particularly growth in luxury dwellings, is, in our minds, a logical way to help subsidize affordable housing. Growth in the number of second homes and retirement homes is the main reason the housing market is soaring out of reach of many working families.
But we acknowledge that a fee on growth is not the only way to support affordable housing. And it may not even be the best way.
We were encouraged, at least in the last weeks before the election, by the tone of the arguments put forth by the some of the leading opponents of Referendum 2A. We are hopeful that they truly believe that a better solution to 2A can be found.
We can see the merits of a more broad-based
funding source to support affordable housing. Moreover, we see great benefits in a broader coalition supporting affordable housing efforts.
The idea behind providing housing that working families can buy is to hold our community together and strengthen it from within. It's a noble endeavor and one we shouldn't give up on, especially if we get help from the other side.