County looks at affordable housing matrix

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The Routt County Commissioners agreed to reduce building department fees for builders who provide affordable housing.

On Monday, commissioners worked on a matrix that would give builders more benefits for the higher the level of affordable housing they provide. Commissioners agreed that the building department waivers should be throughout the county.

The county's discussion was partially sparked by Habitat for Humanity's request for waivers on two homes. The county worked on the affordable housing matrix the city established in 1999.

Commissioner Doug Monger questioned where the money would come from to waive the fees and asked whether the county would reimburse the building department directly.

For the proposed Fox Creek Village, building fees are about $700 per unit, building official Carl Dunham said.

"I would like to charge as much as we could to the building department," Monger said. "But, at some point in time, we have to create a nexus."

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak suggested that the county set up an annual fund for waiving building department fees for affordable housing. When the funds run out, the county would stop waiving fees, she said.

"The idea is first come, first serve. Waive all the fees we budgeted for," Stahoviak said.

The highest level of benefit for builders would waive 100 percent of the building-use tax, 75 percent of the building fees, 75 percent of plan checking fees and include the discussion of some public financing in the project.

To meet the highest level, the project must have a percentage of owners who meet the affordable housing criteria of a qualified resident; the initial purchase price must be established as affordable housing; and there would be price controls upon resale.

Commissioners discussed how much of the building fee should be waived. Monger suggested fees should be at 50 percent, and Stahoviak argued for 75 percent.

"When you look at resale control put on those properties, that is what we have to equate back to benefit," Stahoviak said. "It needs larger concessions."

The medium level of benefit would waive 50 percent of the building-permit fees and plan checking fees. To meet the medium level, the project must have a percentage of owners who are qualified residents, the initial purchase price must be established as affordable housing and the subsequent owner must be a qualified resident.

The lowest level of benefit would allow for fees to be deferred to the building department until the certificate of occupancy is given. To meet the lowest level, occupants of the dwelling must be qualified residents.

Some commissioners questioned whether the lowest level was needed and how much benefit it would create.

Dunham said that many times, builders ask whether they can defer their fees until after the certificate of occupancy so they do not have to pay for them through construction loans and have a higher interest rate.

Commissioners also discussed requiring deed restrictions for the lowest-level benefit, but Stahoviak said it was a lot to ask a builder to restrict a home in perpetuity when they are just getting a deferral on the payment.

To receive approval of the benefits, those with low to medium affordable housing would come through the building department. The commissioners would have to approve the highest level of benefit.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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