Officials to discuss housing authority

City, county want input from other communities before implementing plan

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— The reach of a multijurisdictional housing authority in Routt County will depend on meetings with three communities this month.

Officials from Routt County and Steamboat Springs will be traveling to Yampa, Oak Creek and Hayden in the next three weeks to discuss the housing authority, which would be designed to help provide affordable housing in the county.

Both Steamboat Springs and Routt County have indicated support for the authority, which would have the ability to levy taxes. The meetings would be the first step in allowing the other communities to decide if they want to participate in the authority.

County and city officials will conduct their first meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Yampa. Meetings with Oak Creek and Hayden officials are set for 7 p.m. Feb. 14 and 7 p.m. Feb. 21, respectively.

"It may be the only meeting we have with these communities," Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said. "Or it may be the first of a number of meetings. I don't know what their reaction will be."

The idea of a possible housing authority in the county was brought to the attention of county and city officials in January by the Two Plus Housing Committee.

The committee, which is made up of an equal number of proponents and opponents of the failed 2000 city excise tax for affordable housing, has made several recommendations to county and city officials.

The first step in addressing the committee's recommendations is to create a multijurisdictional housing authority that could issue tax-exempt bonds and levy taxes. If the authority is created, it would likely replace the Regional Affordable Living Foundation as the advocate for affordable housing in the Yampa Valley.

The difference between a housing authority and RALF is the authority would be able to levy taxes, issue tax-exempt revenue bonds and condemn land.

Ellison said it is critical for county and city officials to meet with these communities.

"Is the infrastructure there for growth?" Ellison said. "This could be a countywide initiative, but it will vary with each town's ability to handle growth."

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said it is also critical to discuss what role an authority should play in where affordable housing development occurs.

"If these towns become part of the authority, does that mean all the housing will be pushed toward them?" Stahoviak asked. "Our goal is to try and establish a good amount of affordable housing in Steamboat Springs."

Stahoviak questions whether the housing authority should include these communities because affordable housing is needed for residents who want to live in Steamboat Springs.

"The character and desire of each of the communities is to create their own economy," she said. "But the reality is they will always provide housing for Steamboat Springs and will be considered a bedroom community for Steamboat Springs."

If an authority is created, the Two Plus Housing Committee is in favor of residents voting on two issues in November.

One issue would be an impact fee, which would result in a $1 charge imposed on every square foot of new construction.

The second issue would be a 1-mill property tax increase that would be levied within the authority's boundary.

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