Our View: Turning point for Housing Authority

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— Buoyed by a new executive director and an experienced project manager, there is reason to be optimistic about what the Yampa Valley Housing Authority can accomplish in the future.

That hasn't been the case for the past year or two.

While the previous City Council adopted inclusionary zoning policies to require affordable housing units and a linkage ordinance to generate funding, none of that funding was designated for the Housing Authority - a separate taxing entity.

The result has been a Housing Authority left with little or no resources to accomplish its mission, and a budget that hovered near a deficit as recently as last winter.

While the Housing Authority succeeded on past projects with limited funding, its future success is unlikely without a source of stable, consistent revenue. A survey conducted earlier this summer revealed what many people already suspected - Steamboat Springs residents aren't willing to support any kind of tax for the Housing Authority.

Nonetheless, we have reason to believe the Housing Authority could be headed in the right direction. Last week, the Housing Authority's board of directors hired former Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Donna Howell as the agency's executive director. We expect Howell's attention to detail, decades-long experience in administrative positions and commitment to the community to be invaluable assets to the Housing Authority.

Aiding Howell's efforts will be Curtis Church, the Housing Authority's project manager who served as interim executive director after Elizabeth Black resigned in June. Church, who also was a finalist for the executive director position, will continue to bring much-needed experience, knowledge and passion to the Housing Authority. We are encouraged that his commitment to the agency has not wavered.

As important as what Howell and Church bring to the Housing Authority is the potential for increased cooperation with the city of Steamboat Springs.

As mentioned above, a rift existed between the previous City Council and the Housing Authority, which was largely excluded from discussions about the inclusionary zoning and linkage ordinances. The city has even discussed forming its own housing department, and city officials have interviewed candidates for a city housing director position.

We continue to believe that the Housing Authority - which was created in 2003 by the City Council and Routt County commissioners - is the agency that should be responsible for all affordable housing initiatives. It appears some of the newly elected City Council members feel the same way.

Council members Cari Hermacinski and Scott Myller have expressed their support for the Housing Authority, and Council President Loui Antonucci is on record as saying the city should not be in the housing business. We urge the council to consider dedicating revenues from its affordable housing ordinances to the Housing Authority.

Affordable housing and how it should be implemented - or even whether it should be implemented - continues to be a lightning-rod issue in Steamboat and Routt County. But if we are to maintain our workforce, community and economy, the affordable housing market should be supported and developed.

We are encouraged by the leadership that now is in place at the Housing Authority, and we hope that collaboration and public awareness will be nurtured to support this community need.

Comments

Gadfly 6 years, 8 months ago

The previous Council wouldn't give the Housing Authority any money or responsibilities because they (Council) wanted to be seen by the voters handing out money and buying motels for "affordable housing." They weren't very good at it, and now they're gone. Time to give the Housing Authority the resources to do what it was created to do. The new Council has enough to do just repairing the damage of the past few years.

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steamboatsconscience 6 years, 8 months ago

"The result has been a Housing Authority left with little or no resources to accomplish its mission, and a budget that hovered near a deficit as recently as last winter." Does this mean that Howell will work for free? Or will her salary suck up what little funds they do have?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Steve Lewis 6 years, 8 months ago

I agree with most of the Pilot's view and believe this is an encouraging step.

But I disagree that YVHA "was largely excluded from discussions about the inclusionary zoning and linkage ordinances". In my view if anyone excluded YVHA, it was YVHA.

Several months before the adoption of our Inclusionary Zoning ordinance I attended a Yampa Valley Housing Authority meeting. I went specifically to ask YVHA to support upcoming regulatory measures for affordable housing. The response I received was put forth by Nancy Stahoviak: "YVHA was formed to build housing, and is restricted from policy advocacy".

I look forward to learning that YVHA can be an advocate, or as the Pilot suggests, be "the agency that should be responsible for all affordable housing initiatives". But my current understanding, per above, is that YVHA, by its "charter", cannot do so.

I also look forward to learning that YVHA's board actually has a concensus for supporting "housing initiatives". I greatly respect their committment and work to build workforce housing, but it has been my impression much of their board actually opposed our new housing regulations. -Steve Lewis

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dimwitiguess 6 years, 8 months ago

"Come in to my house," said the spider to the fly.

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