What's in it for us?

Smaller towns question housing authority

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— Representatives from Oak Creek, Hayden and Yampa on Monday challenged housing authority supporters to show how their towns would benefit from the creation of a taxing district to support affordable housing.
"A person easily gets into housing for $100,000 to $120,000 (in Hayden) without having a housing authority," Hayden Mayor Chuck Grobe said.
Representatives from the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County commissioners and the three outlying towns met to discuss forming a multi-jurisdictional housing authority.
The authority, if created, would replace RALF as the advocate for affordable housing in the Yampa Valley. Unlike the non-profit foundation, an authority would be able to levy taxes, issue tax-exempt revenue bonds and could condemn land.
The Steamboat Springs City Council and Routt County commissioners have indicated support for the authority and have met with the town boards in Oak Creek, Yampa and Hayden to gage those towns' interest in participating.
Monday was the first time representatives from all of the towns gathered to discuss the issue.
RALF Executive Director Rob Dick said the organization would like to see an authority formed by August and ask voters to approve a tax no earlier than 2003. But before a vote can be taken to voters, a decision has to be made on what the boundaries of the housing authority might be.
Officials from the smaller towns said they feel they are being asked to help pay to fix a Steamboat problem. Steamboat City Manager Paul Hughes said that's a perception housing authority advocates have to do a better job of addressing.
The Two Plus Housing Committee which came up with the idea of the authority as the best way to address Steamboat's affordable housing problem has recommended an impact fee of $1 per square foot of new construction and a one-mill levy within the authority. Any such taxes would have to be approved by voters.
Hughes suggested that if money were raised it could be put toward building affordable housing in the outlying communities.
"What if you use our money, use Steamboat's money, and your land?" Hughes suggested to the representatives from the outlying towns.
Oak Creek Mayor Cargo Rodeman said she welcomed the idea of getting help for her town to build cheaper housing. But Yampa Board Member Dick Rudeen said his community would not want to build affordable housing. He said Yampa has no interest in becoming a bedroom community for Steamboat. "We're apt to direct our money to keep them here (in Steamboat)," Rudeen said.
Dick said he would like to see an authority that promoted housing where people could live and work, rather than as a commuting solution.
RALF representatives agreed to return to the next county-wide meeting May 22, with a presentation on how outlying communities could more specifically benefit from a housing authority.

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