City, county considering housing authority

Officials want to discuss idea with other towns in the county before deciding on project

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— The city and county want to move quickly to decide whether to create a new multijurisdictional housing authority to help provide affordable housing and potentially levy taxes, but not before consulting other towns in the county.

Officials said Tuesday they want to make sure Hayden, Oak Creek and potentially other unincorporated areas get to decide whether they are in or out before drawing up an agreement that could result in a new entity making decisions about taxation and housing policy.

"Living in one of those communities, I feel pretty strongly that we need to create more opportunities for housing near Steamboat Springs," said Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who lives in South Routt.

Hayden Town Manager Rob Straebel, who attended the meeting, said the Hayden Town Board will consider the idea of participating in the authority.

At a joint meeting of the City Council and Routt County Commissioners Tuesday, a broad-based coalition of community residents addressed the elected officials about their recommendations for the future of affordable housing in the county.

The meeting did not result in a vote, but council members and commissioners expressed support for the effort the group has put in to the project, which resulted in a concise five-page document.

Some of the recommendations will likely be debated for months to come, but the idea of starting a housing authority that could issue tax-exempt bonds and levy taxes may be pushed forward much sooner.

The City Council already endorsed the idea of a multijurisdictional housing authority when it was first proposed in the state Legislature last year by state Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park.

Representatives of the Two Plus Housing Committee, made up of opponents and proponents of the failed 2000 city excise tax for affordable housing, told the council and commission they hoped the recommendations could be acted upon relatively soon. After the excise tax failed at the polls, the group came together to try to find a solution to the problem that could be embraced by the entire community.

Rob Dick, the executive director of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, said the recommendations are a set of compromises from a very diverse group.

"This is a compromise. This is a result of many meetings among people who started out literally at odds with one another," Dick said of the yearlong process that initiated the recommendations.

Bob Weiss, a local lawyer on the committee, said he hopes the city and county do not simply take the recommendations and pick and choose what they want to do rather than adopting the entire document. He said the compromise basically depends on all of the recommendations coming to fruition.

"What we can't have is a situation where certain of these items are picked," he said.

The authority would likely replace RALF as the engine for affordable housing in the valley.

It differs from RALF, however, in that it would be able to levy taxes, issue tax-exempt revenue bonds and could condemn land.

The Two Plus Committee thinks the authority should put two new taxes or fees on the ballot as soon as this November, one of which would be an impact fee that would charge $1 per square foot on new construction.

The second funding mechanism for the authority would be a 1 mill property tax that would be levied on the area within the authority's boundaries. The housing authority legally can try to levy as many as five mills.

If the tax fails, however, the authority cannot legally impose the impact fee. They would have to go together.

The committee also touched on a number of other big issues, including resale price restrictions and "roadblocks" to development currently in the city planning process.

Although the committee does not recommend the city impose commercial linkage requirements that would make commercial developers provide housing for their employees, it does think there needs to be inclusionary zoning on residential development.

Inclusionary zoning would make developers provide a certain percentage of affordable housing with their developments. It is already in place in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.

Led by Councilwoman Nancy Kramer, the council asked the Two Plus Committee to come back with a list of action items to direct the city and county on the committee's 10-year plan for affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the city and county will work to contact the governments of other towns to determine whether they want to be a part of the authority.

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