Wednesday, August 29, 2007
In the ongoing debate about whether - or how - to provide affordable housing in Steamboat Springs, Monday's news that the Yampa Valley Housing Authority closed on its purchase of the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park is cause for celebration.
The Housing Authority, buoyed by a $954,000, no-interest loan from the city, paid $3.2 million for the 8-acre neighborhood. A $550,000 safety upgrade for the railroad crossing in the park raises the total purchase price to $3.75 million.
What it means is long-term security for the 68 households in the exclusively owner-occupied neighborhood. And for some of the residents, the Housing Authority's purchase brings with it the opportunity to become Steamboat Springs landowners. Mobile home owners typically rent the land on which their homes sit, but Housing Authority officials say part of their agreement with the city is to work with Fish Creek homeowners on land acquisition.
Mary Alice Page-Allen, president of the Housing Authority's board, said Fish Creek owners won't be forced to buy the land under their homes, and that no one would be evicted.
"Nobody's going to lose their home in any conversion process," Page-Allen said.
There's no doubt that comes as a relief to the families who call Fish Creek home. Those residents can now focus their energy and money on their homes instead of worrying about when their neighborhood would go the way of Westland Mobile Home Park.
The City Council has taken numerous steps in the past year - inclusionary zoning and linkage ordinances immediately come to mind - to generate funds for the creation of affordable housing. But as we've noted before, it appears easier to hold on to the community housing we already have than it is to create new housing opportunities for residents at the lower end of the income scale. The Housing Authority's acquisition of Fish Creek Mobile Home Park was an important, needed step and can provide a blueprint for future deals.
Credit must be given where it is due, and at the top of the list are Bob and Audrey Enever, the longtime locals who purchased the mobile home park in 1975. The Enevers thought of the Housing Authority first when they considered putting the development on the market, and they patiently allowed the Housing Authority to secure the necessary financing. The City Council also played a significant role - providing the Housing Authority with a no-interest loan for five years. The $954,000 loaned by the city came from funds designated for affordable housing from a previous deal made with developers who bought and eventually tore down the Westland neighborhood to make room for a mixed-use development along the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat. This is the sort of collaboration between the city and the Housing Authority that we've previously called for. Finally, the Housing Authority should be commended for seizing an opportunity to keep affordable housing units within the city limits - an outcome that strikes at the heart of its primary mission.
We hope the future brings continued collaborative efforts between government agencies and private developers and landowners.