Director takes housing reins

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Since arriving in Steamboat Springs, Elizabeth Black has had waitresses, county and city employees, and nurses plead for more affordable housing.

That is something Black, as the new Yampa Valley Housing Authority director, said she is working toward.

At a Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting Thursday, Black told the board she always will be on the side of affordable housing.

Since taking the reins at the housing authority March 7, Black also has come up with another motto: "We're in the community business."

She is hoping her arrival will mark a change in attitudes and a paradigm shift on affordable housing in Routt County.

"Pretty soon, it is going to be time to roll up the sleeves and tackle these significant issues," Black said.

Before taking the position at the housing authority, she was the manager for the Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District. And before that, she was the town manager in Frisco.

Black arrives at the housing authority at a point when affordable housing projects have never been so prolific. This Friday marks the groundbreaking of the Hayden self-help housing project. Shortly after Hayden's kickoff will be the start of the self-help housing program in Oak Creek.

And the development of Fox Creek Village will have at least 15 deed-restricted condos and will be Black's main focus. The project for a 30-unit housing development off Hilltop Parkway was approved by the city this fall and is expected to break ground this summer. The project in scheduled to be complete in seven to nine months.

The housing authority has not yet settled on a contractor for the project, the number of units that will be deed restricted, or the way to determine who gets those units.

"It is going to take most of my time for the next several months," Black said about the work on Fox Creek Village.

The housing authority received a $30,000 grant from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for pre-development costs, such as surveying and architecture

Another project Black is working on is a program through state and federal agencies for silent second mortgages. The program would allow homebuyers to receive funds for down-payment assistance.

The assistance could be $5,000 or 4.5 percent of the down payment on the house, whichever is less. The money would be tied into a silent second mortgage and paid off at the time the house is sold.

The housing authority and its predecessor, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, provided silent second mortgages to those moving into its West End Village project. But this program could be eligible for those who are in the low to median income bracket; regardless of whether they are involved with a housing authority project.

Black also has more long-term plans to create a fund to which community organizations and businesses could donate money for affordable housing. The fund could be used for matching grants or contributing in the development or design of the housing projects. A similar fund is set up in Summit County, Black said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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