YVHA looks at funding options

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The Yampa Valley Housing Authority will not be able to continue or expand service without more funds, board members say, and the organization could go to voters as soon as November to secure a dedicated source of funding.

Ensuring the financial stability of the Housing Authority is one of the top goals outlined in the organization's strategic plan, which will be presented to the Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting with the Routt County Board of Commissioners and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority

When: Executive session begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday; public hearing begins at 5 p.m.

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

What: Yampa Valley Housing Authority board meeting

When: Noon Thursday

Where: Rooms 113 and 114, Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

"What we have seen as a Housing Authority is that if we don't have some way to bring down construction costs -- to buy land or subsidize units -- we're not going to be able to continue to do projects," said Nancy Stahoviak, a board member who also is a county commissioner. That especially rings true because construction and land costs are expected to escalate, she said.

Loui Antonucci, a City Council member who also sits on the Housing Authority's board, said the organization's staff is stretched so thin that board members have taken on staff duties.

"One of the things curtailing our ability to do more is lack of staff and lack of funding to support the staff," he said. "If we wanted to do more projects, we would have to hire more people; in order to hire more people, we need more funds."

Relying on city, county

Since its inception, the Housing Authority has relied on the generosity of the city and county to fund its projects.

In 2004, each entity gave $35,000; in 2005, $50,000; and in 2006, $60,000, Stahoviak said.

That setup was planned, Antonucci said. When the city and the county came together to form the Housing Authority -- which is a separate governmental entity -- the two groups agreed to fund the organization through 2006.

"The intent all along was to fund the authority to get it on its feet," Antonucci said.

The Housing Authority was formed in early 2004 and is composed of a variety of community members. The nonprofit Regional Affordable Living Foundation was the organizaton's predecessor and initiated the West End Village Project. The Housing Authority's mission is to finance, construct and manage housing projects and programs. Those projects and programs are intended to help families with low or moderate incomes and employees within the jurisdiction of the authority.

The Housing Authority has overseen two self-help housing programs in Hayden and Oak Creek. It is building 30 townhomes in Fox Creek Village off Hilltop Parkway. The project will provide 30 deed-restricted, affordable-housing units.

Housing Authority board members will ask for city and county funding again. At their April meeting, Housing Authority board members agreed to ask for $60,000 each from the county's and city's 2007 budgets, Stahoviak said.

Antonucci said he hopes both groups will continue to fund the Housing Authority. However, he said, the Housing Authority is a separate entity and has the power to use other dedicated sources of funding.

According to state statute, there are three options for dedicated funding sources: a sales tax of 1 percent or less; a property tax of 5 mills or less; or an impact fee of $2 or less per square foot. An impact fee charges a dollar amount for every square foot of a new building. If the Housing Authority chooses an impact fee, it must also have a tax. All three of the options require a vote by the residents who live within the Housing Authority's boundaries.

Looking to voters

Stahoviak said it is possible the Housing Authority will look to go to the voters in November.

"We are leaving all options open at this point in time," she said.

Antonucci and Stahoviak said it is too early to say what type of funding the board may go for. The board is set to discuss funding in a meeting later this week. During the meeting, Stahoviak said, board members will discus philosophical issues with funding as well as list things they need to know before moving forward.

Stahoviak said that even if there is a ballot issue, the board will ask for city and county funding because a tax or fee would not provide revenue until the middle or the end of 2007.

If the board decides to move forward with a ballot issue, the Housing Authority would hold a formal public hearing for adoption of the resolution to place the issue on the ballot.

Spending the money

Funds that are gained from a dedicated funding source would be used for more projects, Stahoviak said.

"The majority would be used to put more projects in the ground at a more affordable level for residents in the community," she said.

The Housing Authority has received funds from other non-dedicated sources, including the federal government. The self-help programs in Hayden and Oak Creek have received U.S. Department of Agriculture monies for technical assistance. And the Housing Authority charges a fee for its homebuyer education classes.

The fee concept could be expanded, Stahoviak said.

The city recently approved an inclusionary zoning ordinance that requires developers in most areas of the city to provide 15 percent affordable residential units within residential projects. If the Housing Authority is asked to administer that ordinance, Stahoviak said it could charge a fee -- such as $60,000 to $100,000 a year -- to pay for the necessary additional staffing.

Determining whether to charge a fee could be made on a case-by-case basis, Stahoviak said. The Housing Authority could continue some free partnerships with the city and the county while working on an agreement level and charging some fees.

Public weighs in

While drafting the strategic plan, Housing Authority officials held several public meetings. During those meetings, people who attended provided comments about possible funding mechanisms. Some of those comments were:

n "Need a sales/use tax designed solely for low income housing."

n "We need a dedicated source of funding -- sales, building or property, lift ticket tax."

n "Why can't we charge 25 cents to ride the free bus to help buy land for affordable housing?"

n "Impact fees seem appropriate as a revenue source for affordable housing because developers are 'using up' the supply of real estate, which is the primary problem. We need them to be part of the solution."

n "Lift ticket tax, city reprioritize its expenditures -- less recreation and special interests, more community needs."

n "Taxes, property tax, donations."

Stahoviak said input about funding was good.

"Specific public comments came back and showed that people think that the Housing Authority needs to have a dedicated funding source," she said.

Antonucci said officials always thought public perception of the Housing Authority would shift after its inception.

"What was discussed at the city and county level was that the Housing Authority needed to have a couple of successful projects and a track record so that the people of Steamboat would believe it was a viable entity," Antonucci said.

He said he didn't know how much support there was for the Housing Authority in 2001 and 2002. However, he said, the housing needs of Steamboat have "risen to the surface."

With this need comes a need for funding, Stahoviak said.

"Without some type of subsidizing of projects, it will be difficult for us to put projects in the group that are truly affordable for our citizens that work here," she said.

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