Steamboat Springs If Tony Connell had his way, his West End Village development would be full of working families -- employees of local governments, schools, hospitals, police and fire departments, and the like.
"I believe the diversity of our economy and the wonderful core spirit of this community is linked with the ability to find reasonable affordable housing," Connell said.
Connell's vision is halfway there. Fifty percent of the homes in the West End Village project are deed-restricted affordable housing units aimed at providing housing for people who live and work in Routt County.
Connell is a partner in Connell, LLC, the developer of the West End Village project.
Of the 88 units the project is providing, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation bought lots for 24 single-family homes and seven duplexes to place under deed restrictions and sell to qualified buyers. Connell, LLC, will provide six other deed-restricted units in three duplexes.
Since an affordable housing lottery this summer, RALF has been matching qualified buyers with its units. The remaining 43 units have just come on the free market, meaning the owners of the homes will not have to face the deed restrictions or meet RALF's qualification for ownership.
The free-market portion of the project will have 24 single-family homes with the potential for secondary caretaker units, nine larger lots without caretaker units and five duplex lots. The lots range in price from $65,000 to $90,000.
Single-family lots for under $100,000 are rare in Steamboat. On Thursday, Steamboat's multiple listing service had three lots less than $100,000 within the city limits. Another five lots for less than $100,000 could be found on the Sliver Spur development west of town.
Norbert Turek, who is helping sell the properties through Elk River Realty, said the lots are being sold for far less than what the market is asking.
"Basically, we are leaving money on the table," he said.
Connell's goal is to see families living in even the non-deed-restricted single-family homes for less than $250,000, and possibly less than $200,000. He believes that if homebuyers find the right design and add sweat equity, they will be able to build a 1,200-square-foot home for $100 a square foot.
Connell has worked with local architect Steve Eggleston and believes he could do well-designed single-family homes for less than $100 per square foot. Owners of the non-deed-restricted lots can use RALF's selected builder, Crystal Peak Combined, but Connell will require them to upgrade the modular homes.
"We will work with people, and it has already been shown that you can do competitive stick-built homes," Turek said. "The stuff doesn't have to come off a truck."
Connell is hoping that a drop in building permits within the last year will mean more competitive building prices.
"We will now see if builders and the tradesmen can deliver reasonable costs to something outside of the $1 million to $3 million houses," Connell said.
The reason the prices for the lots are so low, Connell said, is because the company was able to save money by contracting with Connell Resources to do the infrastructure work. Because Connell Resources has similar stakeholders as Connell LLC, Tony Connell said the sometimes adversarial role between the developer and those contracted to do the groundwork was eliminated. That saved time and money.
To ensure that the lots are owned by working people in Routt County and to discourage land speculation, all the free-market lots will include a buy-back provision that allows Connell LLC, to repurchase any lot if the owner decides to resell an unimproved lot within five years.
Turek and Connell started marketing the lots by sending letters out to employees at the city, county, schools, police department, fire department, hospitals and Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. They also contacted people on the RALF waiting list that did not make it into one of the 38 RALF units and those who expressed interest in the homes during the affordable housing expo last summer.
"I'd like to see it go to all those people," Connell said.
The lots officially came on the market Thursday when Connell and Turek filed the final plat, but the list will not become open to everyone until March 15.
Of the 41 lots on the free market, Connell already has 26 reservations. Some of those reservations belong to employees in the fire department, school district and Connell Resources.
The West End Village Project is just off of Downhill Drive and was converted from an old gravel pit. Views from the free-market lots look out onto Mount Werner, the Flat Tops, Emerald Mountain and Saddle Mountain.
Although perched above U.S. Highway 40, the project also is intended to have an old-town feel. The architectural guidelines require houses to be toward the front of sidewalks and to have steep roof pitches, porches and color variety. An almost three-acre park sits near the northeast corner of the project. The park will have a playground, and Connell said one day it could hold an Under-9 soccer field and tennis courts.
Connell also has two multi-family lots for sale. The two lots are approved for 32 units and will be sold for less than $480,000. Under the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, one-third of the units in the multi-family units have to be affordable.