The Steamboat Springs City Council should be applauded for agreeing to look again at the affordable housing recommendations of the Two Plus Housing Committee.
The Two Plus Housing Committee was formed after the failure of a 2000 referendum to impose an excise tax on new development for affordable housing. Opponents and advocates of the proposal got together to develop the best way to address affordable housing in Steamboat Springs. The group made its recommendations to the City Council and County Commissioners last January. On Tuesday night, the City Council postponed a vote on a resolution supporting the recommendations.
It should not need to be reiterated, but we will do so anyway affordable housing is a serious problem that is getting worse. Routt County ranks 24th in the nation in terms of housing costs. Worse yet, the county has a below average wage scale. The county ranks 20th in terms of the gap between housing costs and average salaries.
The Two Plus Housing Committee's recommendations offer the city the chance to move forward on this issue. The recommendations include creating a multi-jurisdictional housing authority, seeking voter approval of tax funding for the housing authority, creating inclusionary zoning, eliminating the general improvement district tax in the West of Steamboat Area Plan and forming a task force to work on regulatory barriers to housing construction.
A housing authority would replace the Regional Affordable Living Foundation as the agency responsible for affordable housing in Steamboat Springs.
The difference between RALF and a housing authority is important. A housing authority would have the power to levy taxes and incur debt. RALF is reliant upon government funding and private contributions. County and city officials spent several months earlier this year studying the creation of a housing authority. But the plan went on the backburner when surrounding towns indicated they would not participate and a community survey showed Steamboat residents would not support a tax to fund affordable housing.
The general improvement district tax has never seemed fair. After the city decided the West of Steamboat Area Plan was the logical site for affordable housing, the city then imposed a tax on new housing in that area, ostensibly to force those residents to pay for the extension of city services to the area.
That's faulty logic. The bottom line is affordable housing will benefit the community as a whole, and the community should share in the costs to help provide it. Residents in one area shouldn't be asked to pay more for basic city services simply because they could only afford to build a home in one part of the city instead of another.
The committee's other recommendations also are sensible. Steamboat needs more inclusionary zoning and simplified building codes and regulations.
Other than RALF's West End Village, nothing is happening in the West of Steamboat Area plan, thus nothing is happening on the affordable housing front. The City Council needs to do something. Approving the Two Plus recommendations would be a good start.