Affordable housing discussed

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Steamboat Springs City Council members and Routt County commissioners on Monday discussed the affordable housing requirement in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.

The updated draft of the plan, which is going through a city and county public review process, lowers the minimum requirement for affordable housing from 33 percent to 15 percent. The Yampa Valley Housing Authority recommended the number to planners.

According to the current draft of the plan, affordable housing means housing for families making 80 percent or less of Routt County's annual median income, which for a family of four is about $72,700.

City Council member Ken Brenner passed out a chart showing the difference in the amount of housing that the 33 percent and the 15 percent requirements would provide. He said officials needed to be aware of the significance of that difference.

"We don't want to be misled when talking about the economic impact of this," Brenner said.

He said he was reluctant to lower the 33 percent requirement in the short term.

Council member Nancy Kramer said officials "would be remiss" to not support the minimum number that already has been established.

"It is what it is, and there is a huge opportunity here. I think we all know that we have to work hard at this," Kramer said.

Elizabeth Black, director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, said government agencies need to understand the cost of construction. The original requirement did not take that into account, she said.

"Thirty-three percent was a valid number, but something was left out of there, and that was the construction costs," Black said.

Officials already have spent too much time hoping developers would catch on to the 33 percent number and agree to develop west of Steamboat, City Council President Paul Strong said. There have been few proposals to develop in the plan area since the plan's adoption six years ago.

"I think hope has got us where we are today," Strong said.

Council member Steve Ivancie said he did not agree with lowering the 33 percent requirement. Why not consider 20 or 25 percent, he asked.

"I appreciate the fact that this is going to be flexible and that it can change, but I feel like we're just giving up," he said.

The 15 percent requirement was not just thrown out from nowhere, council member Loui Antonucci said. He said that number would support bringing new affordable housing into the area sooner.

"We have an acute housing problem, and we need to start solving it," Antonucci said.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the housing authority made a good recommendation.

"It gives us something to start with that makes a lot of sense," Stahoviak said.

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