Our View: Affordable housing

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Although deed restrictions have recognized pitfalls, more than 200 people are interested in buying 30 such restricted units in a new affordable housing project.

That level of interest speaks volumes about the importance of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and the importance of continuing to look for innovative ways to create affordable housing in our community.

Tonight, YVHA will draw names to determine who will have the first chance to own the 30 townhomes in Fox Creek Village, being built this summer off Hilltop Parkway.

The lottery represents a milestone in a project that got off to a rough start. It's also an important moment for YVHA, which only took its current, official form at the beginning of this year.

The city Planning Commission first saw plans for Fox Creek Village a year and a half ago, and the group sharply criticized the plans for being too Spartan and too "cookie-cutterish." At first, that appeared to be a defeat for affordable housing -- the Planning Commission's demands threatened to drive up the price of the units and jeopardize federal grant funding for the project.

Instead, the authority's predecessor, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, regrouped and redesigned the project to respond to the city's concerns.

The end result was a better-looking, better-quality project that will provide deed-restricted homes for people making 120 percent or less of the area's median income.

Two-thirds of the two-bedroom, two-bathroom units will sell for $175,000 each and will go to people making less than 80 percent of the median income. The remainder of the units will sell for $190,000 and will go to those making 80 percent to 120 percent of the median income.

The tradeoff, for the qualified people chosen at tonight's lottery, will be the knowledge that when they sell the $175,000 townhomes, they will be able to sell for no more than the original purchase price plus 3 percent of the compounded annual increase on that price. Those who buy the $190,000 units won't face a price restriction at resale. However, their gains will be limited by potential buyers' income bracket, much like the restriction in place in the West End Village affordable housing project.

That more than 200 people are interested in this project, despite the pitfalls of deed restrictions, is more proof of how great the local need is for affordable housing.

And, recognizing the downside of deed restrictions, we need to continue looking for other ways to create housing that members of Steamboat Springs' working class can afford.

The city must keep an open mind as it examines some of the projects coming before it today -- small-lot subdivisions and live-work spaces.

City planners' insistence that Fox Creek Village aim higher resulted in a better project for its future residents. It is the planners' job to measure all projects against the city's development code.

We hope that while defending the code, they will balance the shortcomings of such innovative development proposals with their potential. It's those proposals that ultimately could put the many who won't get a Fox Creek unit into homes of their own.

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