Affordable not always buyable

Red Hawk developers cite housing concerns

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Ski area looks ahead

The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved Tuesday an amendment to development plans at Steamboat Ski Area. The amendment allows for construction of a new 6,400-square-foot storage and maintenance facility at the top of Burgess Creek Road, a new hut at the top of the new Sunshine Express lift, and a 30-seat expansion of the Four Points hut.

Lyn Halliday, director of guest services and environmental affairs for the ski area, said that although the Sunshine hut and Four Points hut projects are at least a year away, the storage facility could be built before winter. Approval of facility plans is still being negotiated with U.S. Forest Service officials, Halliday said.

— Developers who volunteered to include affordable homes in their Stagecoach subdivision said Tuesday that restrictions implemented by Routt County are preventing them from selling the units.

Steve Barwick, Ren Martyn and Rob Van Deren are partners in Mountain Valley Communities, a Steamboat Springs company that is developing the Red Hawk subdivision on Sagebrush Circle in Stagecoach. Red Hawk includes 29 single-family homes. Although eight of those homes are deed-restricted units that adhere to the county's affordable housing regulations, Van Deren told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the deed restrictions essentially have taken the affordable homes off the market.

"We can't find a buyer that qualifies for this," Van Deren said, citing restrictions that require buyers to earn 120 percent or lower of the county's average median income, spend no more than 30 percent of that income on housing, have no more than $250,000 in total assets, work in Routt County and live in the home as a primary residence.

"The lots are going to sit idle with these restrictions," Van Deren told commissioners.

Barwick, Martyn and Van Deren asked commissioners Tuesday to adjust and decrease the restrictions on the eight affordable units or allow them to reduce the number of affordable units at Red Hawk to four.

Commissioners agreed to raise the income percentage to 150 percent of the county's average median income. That decision was followed by a discussion about Mountain Valley's request that commissioners remove the 30 percent and $250,000 restrictions.

"If they have $250,000 or more, (buyers) shouldn't need affordable housing in the first place," Commissioner Doug Monger said.

Martyn responded by saying, "You'd be surprised," a comment he explained after the meeting.

"What people don't want is some sort of cap on their well-being," Martyn said. "People don't want to buy with these kinds of restrictions."

Van Deren said that for educated homebuyers who consider their home purchase as an investment, deed restrictions "cast a negative cloud over the home" because of perceptions that restrictions decrease future financial gains - perceptions that Van Deren and Martyn said are largely untrue.

Deed restrictions for affordable housing only limit future buyers of a home, Martyn said, not the home's increase in value over time. Incentives such as lower mortgage rates or down payment assistance could make affordable housing more attractive to buyers, Martyn said.

"We'd like to see those options available in the future," he said.

After discussion, commissioners voted to remove the 30 percent and $250,000 restrictions, which Barwick said will help Mountain Valley sell the affordable units the company volunteered to implement after purchasing Red Hawk in June 2005.

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