Town considers housing idea

Hayden looking at joining authority

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— The long line of cars that leave Hayden each morning for the commute to Steamboat Springs may be one of the best arguments for the town of Hayden to consider a plan to offer affordable housing in the future.

In mid-January, the Two Plus Housing Committee recommended to the Steamboat Springs City Council and county commissioners a multijurisdictional housing authority to oversee affordable housing in the Yampa Valley.

In addition to Steamboat, such an authority could include the communities of Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa.

Outlying towns such as Hayden provide housing for a large number of Steamboat employees who cannot afford to live in Steamboat.

"It might make sense for (Hayden) to consider it," Steamboat Springs City Manager Paul Hughes said.

The housing authority would have the power to set and levy taxes, so area officials want to discuss the authority with all of the communities in the county before proposing boundaries for the authority.

Hayden Town Manager Rob Straebel met earlier with Hughes, Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan and Oak Creek Town Manager Ray Leibensperger to discuss the creation of an authority.

County commissioners will begin a series of meetings with local governments, beginning with its Feb. 21 meeting in Hayden.

"We're really testing the waters with local elected officials to see if their constituents might be interested in this," said County Commissioner Doug Monger.

In addition to imposing taxes, the housing authority could also issue revenue bonds.

Revenue from a tax increase approved by the voters could contribute to the creation of affordable housing options in outlying communities.

But any taxes would require the approval of voters who live within the authority's boundaries.

Because taxes cannot be levied without a public vote, Monger said, the commissioners want to hear from local town boards to determine if they think the need for an authority exists in their area.

Residents likely want to know how a housing authority would benefit them, Hughes said.

"It's up in the air," he said. "Anything is possible."

While the cost of housing in Hayden has increased in recent years, the price still remains significantly lower than the cost of housing in Steamboat, said Hayden Mayor Chuck Grobe.

Empty lots can be purchased for $35,000 to $45,000.

The addition of a modular home bumps the price to $120,000 to $140,000, which still beats neighboring competition, Grobe said.

Voters will need to decide if they want to pay more taxes to solve a problem that may not impact Hayden as much as other areas in the Yampa Valley, he said.

Straebel said the Hayden Town Board showed interest in a housing authority but wanted to use the Feb. 21 meeting to better judge the merits of Hayden joining.

"There are still unresolved issues," he said. "We will remain a participant in the discussion, but what we endorse at this point is not certain."

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