Affordable opportunities

Housing expo offers chance to

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— Laura Anderson, a school teacher and single mother of two, sat in the back of Olympian Hall Tuesday afternoon hoping luck would be with her that the number she drew would give her the chance to stay in Steamboat Springs.

For two years, Anderson has been waiting for the chance to purchase a home in West End Village, Steamboat's first affordable housing project where residents own their homes.

On Tuesday, she and more than 100 other applicants gathered at Olympian Hall for the Regional Affordable Living Foundation's Housing Expo. At the expo, a random drawing was held to determine selection order for the subsidized housing in the development 24 single-family homes, 14 duplex units and 26 multi-family townhomes.

It was hard for Anderson to hold back the tears when she talked about her options if West End Village doesn't work out for her family. "I don't think we could stay in Steamboat," she said.

As she waited for the drawing, Anderson was so anxious, she refused to look at the display of cabinet, doorknob and tile selections for the modular homes planned in the development. Instead, the language arts teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School simply sat with her tow-headed son and waited for names to be called.

She didn't have to wait long. When the drawing began, Anderson's name was picked second out of the 177 in the hat.

"I just want to jump up and down," she said.

Anderson has lived in Steamboat for 19 years. She lived in Stagecoach but the commute was difficult with two children. She wanted to do more than rent in Steamboat. Anderson still must determine how to finance the three-bedroom house she wants, but she now knows she has the chance to purchase a home for $160,000 to $200,000, a price range she can't find anywhere else in Steamboat.

"It's still kind of pricey," she said. "But a relief to be at least second."

Not everyone was as lucky.

Meg Morse, a teacher at Lowell Whiteman School, and her husband John, a ski instructor, have been waiting to move into a single-family home before starting a family.

The Morses drew number 68, leaving them unsure if they will be able to get one of the 24 single-family homes in the project.

"It really is sort of heart wrenching," Meg Morse said as she watched others anxiously wait on the draw. "Think about how great life is (in Steamboat) and how much we sacrifice."

Applicants for the project had to live and work in Routt County and fall below 120 percent of the area's current median income, which would be $73,800 for a family of four. RALF, which has been the driving force behind the project, has been collecting applications for two years.

RALF Executive Director Rob Dick assured the crowd before the drawing that the odds were much better than the one-to-three ratio of houses to applicants. From past experiences, Dick said that just a third of the applicants follow through with the process.

"Many people no longer live in Steamboat, no longer need a home or qualify for loans," he said.

Even with the reduced odds, some applicants were not happy with the random rankings.

Nancy Spencer, who has a trailer home in West Acres, said she sent her application in for West End Village months ago. She said preference should have been given to applicants who had their names on the list first. Some signed up more than two years ago.

"I think it should be from a first-come, first-served basis," Spencer said.

Because she borders the West End Village site, she had walked the area with her dog and eyed the lots where she most wants to live. But with a number of 88, Spencer is worried she will not get a single-family home, let alone her choice of lots.

"It is disappointing," said Spencer, who has worked a variety of jobs from Clark's Market to Wells Fargo Bank. "I want to live in Steamboat. I was born and raised in Steamboat. It would be nice to stay here in one place."

Dick recommended all applicants regardless of the priority number they were assigned find funding, determine how much they can pre-qualify for in loans, and choose one of the six single-family homes or two duplex models that are being provided by Crystal Peaks Combined.

The affordable housing development, located west of Steamboat on U.S. 40, broke ground this spring and homes are expected to be in place by next summer. In addition to the 60 subsidized affordable housing units, which will range in price from $120,000 to $200,000, there will be 41 homes built and sold at market values in West End Village.

Dick said RALF will immediately start calling applicants and making sure they are still interested.

Dick said applicants who do not have financing in place and a house chosen by Aug. 15, will be moved to the bottom of the priority list.

Even as names were being drawn Tuesday that list was growing. Twenty-somethings Matt and Tracey Patterson applied on Tuesday, too late for the drawing, but still in time for a chance at getting into some affordable housing.

"I'm tired of renting and paying the owner's mortgage," Matt Patterson said.

"We'd just like to own something in (Steamboat). This is definitely the only way."

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