Revisions proposed to plan

Housing authority wants to relax West of Steamboat plan requirements

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City and county leaders hope new affordable housing guidelines for the untapped areas west of Steamboat Springs will have 20-20 vision.

Elizabeth Black of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority spoke to the City Council on Tuesday night. She said the housing authority has reached the conclusion that a requirement that residential developers working within the boundaries of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan make one-third of their units affordable should be relaxed to 15 percent.

However, Black said the board is interested in a 20-20 proposition. It would reward developers willing to bump affordable housing to 20 percent of the mix with a 20 percent increase in density.

"Thirty-three percent isn't ac----complishing anything," Black said. "The program has to be embraced by the residential development business. We felt 10 percent was too low and settled on a minimum of 15 percent. What we want to impress upon you is that at 20 percent, (developers) get a whole lot more."

Since the plan was adopted by the city and county in the late 1990s, it has languished while prices for residential lots within the city have spiraled upward. At the same time, new housing developments have begun to leapfrog west to Hayden. The plan defined a large area north of U.S. Highway 40 and west of the city limits where growth could take place, and an orderly process for annexation into the city was provided.

The few landowners in the area consistently have said that a variety of constraints contained in the plan have deterred developers.

Black said she and Assistant City Planning Director Tom Leeson researched affordable housing ordinances throughout the nation and, in particular, in Colorado resort communities, to come up with a recommendation to the YVHA board.

"Thirty-three percent is not acceptable to most property owners in the west of Steamboat," Black said.

Her research with Leeson shows Boulder County's ordin--ance calls for 20 percent affordable housing, as does a similar ordinance in Basalt. Garfield County is at 10 percent, and Carbondale is at 15 percent. Aspen/Pitkin County ranges from 33 percent to 60 percent.

Black pointed out that with the approved density in the West of Steamboat Plan of 2,600 total units, a 15 percent affordable housing requirement could generate as many as 390 units that would be attainable within target household income levels. However, YVHA wants to provide incentives for developers to go further.

"For slightly more affordable housing than the minimum, the developer would stand to gain more," Black said.

Other financial incentives, in----cluding fee and permit waivers and reduced tap fees, should be considered, she added.

In addition, the board's recommendation allows individual developers to come forward with creative plans to provide affordable housing. The flexibility to pay a fee in lieu of actually developing the affordable housing also should be an option, the board recommends.

All three Routt County commissioners were present at the council meeting and affirmed their desire to explore the board's recommendations and present them in a broader public forum.

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