Steamboat Springs The problem of affordable housing in Steamboat, as addressed in the new Community Development Code, is multi-faceted and cannot be tackled simply with code provisions. That said, the code was written with the intent of allowing some more flexibility in developing affordable housing.
The current code provides few provisions beyond its affordable housing matrix that deal directly with affordable housing. The matrix defines, albeit loosely, the level of subsidy the city will give to an affordable housing project in return for certain restrictions on the property. That matrix, since it was adopted Sept. 14, 1999, has not been used, the city's consultants said.
The city, which is now looking to establish a linkage program that will link new development to employee housing, is also planning on relying on secondary units to provide some of the community's employee housing.
A secondary unit, as defined in the code, is "a residential unit ancillary to a principal dwelling unit, located on the same lot where the principal dwelling unit is located."
The linkage program would necessitate that employers of new businesses provide a percentage of their employees' housing, encouraging them to build those units directly adjacent to their businesses.
The linkage apartments, like residential secondary units, would allow employees to live near their work in affordable units.
The code is also designed to allow more secondary units in residential districts without minimum lot area requirements, which would allow developers flexibility in building smaller units onto other residential buildings.
Those units could qualify as affordable housing.
Secondary units could also keep single-family homes affordable by allowing houses to be built with adjacent units that could be rented out.
"Secondary units are a good way to provide affordable housing through the market," said City Planner Tracey Hughes.
Market incentives are just one way the city may be able to spur the growth of affordable housing. The city's consultants, Clarion and Associates, helped outline the main ways of providing affordable housing. Those solutions fall into four main categories: allowing the market to respond, incentivizing the private sector, establishing standards for the private sector and initiating direct government involvement.
The solution to the problem, according to the consultants, would likely necessitate employing a comprehensive strategy.
City Councilman Jim Engelken agreed with Clarion's assessment.
"The issues of affordable housing and community housing and employee housing are very complicated and have many different facets," he said. "Consequently, there are a number of different approaches to solving any particular part of the problem."
According to the consultants, the city can help the market respond to the affordable housing crunch by giving affordable housing projects priority status in the review process. Aspen allows such projects first priority on its agendas.
The city could also create more stringent affordable housing standards for the community by making developers include restricted affordable units in their developments. That proposal, know as inclusionary zoning, often goes hand in hand with linkage requirements, the consultants wrote.