Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Steamboat Springs 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.