Mike Lawrence: Define 'affordable'

Riverwalk, Wildhorse likely not in my future


Mike Lawrence

Call Mike Lawrence at 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com.

— The City Council faces a monumental task in balancing Steamboat's upcoming flood of resort-style growth with providing homes for workers to sustain that growth.

I am one of those workers.

And as much as I love the idea of one day owning a condo in The Olympian at Fifth and Yampa, or Riverwalk by the river, or One Steamboat Place at the ski base, I don't see any of those scenarios happening regardless of the "affordable" housing regulations the City Council is working so hard to implement.

Knowing many young professionals who currently rent in Steamboat, I can safely say I am not alone in my pessimism about future homeownership here.

The closest I'll get to a Steamboat home on the Yampa River probably happened in August, when I visited the trailer of longtime Westland Mobile Home Park resident Christina Allevato. I was working on a story about the demolition of Westland to make way for the Riverwalk development, which is still pending final approval by the City Council but in all likelihood will break ground within the next year or two, along with many other developments, all of which I will write about, but none of which I'll be able to live in, "affordable" or not.

Allevato's trailer had a little porch over the river, a hammock and a fire pit. It was a throwback to a time well before the day she moved in, 17 years ago.

A lot has changed since then.

The change is evident in the front-page photo of Tuesday's Steamboat Today. The photo depicted demolition at Westland and ran above an article about the council preparing to create a vision for affordable housing.

On Monday, City Council President Ken Brenner told me the greatest housing need in Steamboat is for low and very low-income families.

Tuesday's photo made me smile. Ruefully.

Let's look at some numbers.

Elizabeth Black, executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, says to fully qualify for housing assistance, a single prospective homeowner needs to earn 80 percent or below of the county's area median income, or AMI. That cut-off is $40,700.

For a family of four, 100 percent of the AMI is $72,700.

The housing authority can work with households earning up to 120 percent of the AMI, which for a single person is $60,080.

Hey, using those numbers, I qualify.

But Black is aware of the problem that I and numerous others face. "It's no good being able to qualify for a $200,000 mortgage when the payments are slightly above $1,300 or $1,400 a month," she said. "We need more (housing) inventory around the $150,000 to $180,000 mark."

It remains to be seen whether affordable units in developments like The Olympian or Wildhorse Meadows will be priced closer to $200,000 or to $150,000, but I'm guessing the former. I'm guessing those units will be on the high end of the "affordable" range, plus homeowner association fees and so on.

Right now, I rent for $750 a month, utilities included. I am able to live alone and lucked out with great landlords, but even that amount is a handful. With student loans - and, yes, my ski pass - I don't save much.

But I'm going to try.

Black teaches a monthly homebuyer education class at Colorado Mountain College. For the $25 class price, you can qualify for more than $9,000 in downpayment loan assistance. The next class is Dec. 9. Call the housing authority at 879-0167 to sign up.

Maybe I'll see you there.


Scott Wedel 10 years, 5 months ago

You have no realistic hopes of buying in Steamboat unless you win a lottery. $150,,000 to $190,000 does not get you much in Yampa, Oak Creek or Hayden. If anything like that were to come up in Steamboat then it would sell to someone making an all cash offer with no contingencies, something you cannot do.

What you should be more worried about is your rent going up and being priced out of Steamboat's rental market. Your landlords could get $850 for a one bedroom in Steamboat with utilities included

There is so much demand for rental housing that I no longer advertise vacancies. I get enough calls from business owners hoping I have a vacancy for one of their employees that when I get a vacancy then I call them back and it'll get filled in a day or two.


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