The next two months could determine whether the community of Steamboat Springs has the political will to take permanent steps to ensure attainable work-force housing.
Call it a convergence of events.
There is good news to celebrate today as Habitat for Humanity dedicates a new duplex in West End Village and begins construction on another home. More than 100 people volunteered in the effort, and the completion of the homes after more than two years of construction represents a rebirth of sorts for the local Habitat organization.
Although the new Habitat duplex is more than symbolic for its new owners, as a community, we have to do much more if we're to preserve the socio-economic structure that makes Steamboat, Steamboat.
Fortunately, we have a lot going for us. Elizabeth Black, executive director of Yampa Valley Housing Authority, is an astute and creative leader who has the support of the City Council and Routt County Board of Commissioners.
Key business leaders at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area took it upon themselves last fall to spearhead the creation of an urban renewal authority, which has generated the interest necessary to redevelop our aging resort village.
Recognizing that it's imperative to "do it right this time," the City Council wisely called a timeout in the rush to redevelop.
During the summer, city and county officials reopened the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan to consider relaxing affordable housing requirements needed to annex residential subdivisions into the city. Although fewer affordable units would result, the current plan has deterred developers entirely. A more reasonable plan that breaks the deadlock could be considered a win for work-force housing.
Recently, the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley has focused its attention on municipal ordinances in place in resort towns such as Telluride, which already has proven that resort developers can afford to provide work-force housing.
The development of large resort housing projects at the base of the ski area is certain to create demand for more workers and the need for more work-force housing.
For more than a decade, Telluride's development code has included formulas that require that multifamily residential and commercial developers provide a percentage of their overall square footage to work-force housing. Steamboat can do the same.
We have the opportunity to reward developers with increased density in free-market units over and above their work-force units. Developers who are willing to go a little further with workforce housing should be offered even greater rewards.
This fall promises one of the most contested City Council elections in more than a decade. The timing couldn't be better for a wide-open debate about how best to preserve an economically diverse community for decades to come.