Group to give housing plan

New affordable-housing proposal may be the solution

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— Members of the latest committee to study the affordable-housing problem in Routt County may be close to hammering out a new plan that could satisfy many of the factions torn apart by the issue.

The "Plus Two Housing Committee" is expected to make a presentation before Steamboat Springs City Council today.

"It's a good plan; I think the public will like it," said local builder Steve Cavanagh, one of the founders of the Plus Two committee.

A positive statement from Cavanagh is significant because he was one of the leaders who helped defeat a ballot initiative last year that would have funded affordable housing through a controversial excise tax on new development in the city.

Cavanagh and other members of the Plus Two committee met Monday to discuss how they may address the City Council about the topic.

Rob Dick, co-founder of the Plus Two committee, said the new plan would establish a multijurisdictional housing authority that would have taxing authority in the city and county. Money would be raised through a combination of an excise tax on new construction and a property tax.

There is a consensus that the taxes would raise between $500,000 and $750,000 a year, said Dick, executive director of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation. RALF is a nonprofit group dedicated to finding affordable-housing solutions for Routt County residents.

The Plus Two committee is made up of about 20 community members, including people in the construction industry as well as affordable-housing advocates who supported last year's effort to tax new development. The bipartisan committee was formed after the defeat of the tax measure known as Referendum 2A.

Cavanagh said he was very pleased that committee members who were so polarized in the beginning were finally reaching a consensus on a way to help solve the affordable-housing shortage in Routt County.

However, Cavanagh said any new tax proposal would have to wait until November 2002 before it went to the people for a vote.

"We got a real good plan, we just can't put it in place between now and November," Cavanagh said.

Dick agreed, saying procedural issues need to be worked out.

The "planning and building process needs to be simplified and streamlined," Dick said.

"The hope is that the Community Development Code would do that," he said, referring to the city's work on restructuring the community code.

In the meantime, Council President Kevin Bennett said council members are still very interested in finding a way to solve the affordable-housing shortage in Routt County.

But Bennett said he expects the Plus Two committee to back up any new requests with hard facts and numbers.

"We have recently adopted impact fees, which are based on very detailed studies we did through a consultant," said Bennett.

Bennett was referring to the council recently imposing impact fees on new construction. Research showed that the new construction was overburdening the city's resources and finances.

"We want the same reliance on appropriate research from them (Plus Two committee), so we can fill in the numbers," Bennett said.

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