Steamboat Springs Sometimes you have to shovel a lot of dirt out of the way before you can start building a house.
In a joint meeting Tuesday night, the Steamboat Springs City Council and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority agreed to continue working together to provide local affordable housing. Reaching that agreement involved most of a nearly three-hour, often passionate discussion about housing goals, how each body can best contribute to achieving those goals, and - most importantly, a consultant said - how to build a relationship between two bodies that officials from both sides said clearly have not communicated enough.
"I think some hard things were said tonight, and I think that cleared the air," said Cindy Brown, an executive co-director of Boulder Housing Partners who helped facilitate the discussion. "I don't know that we finished anything, but it's a good step forward for future meetings."
While the two groups did not reach final decisions on any of the agenda items scheduled for Tuesday's meeting - such as clarifying roles of the two groups and establishing funding structures - Brown said the City Council and the Housing Authority defined several "areas of agreement" on ideas such as sharing responsibilities for funding and land acquisitions, allowing the council to create housing policy and regulations, enabling the Housing Authority to collect and maintain data of local affordable housing and working together on a "pilot project."
City Council President Pro-tem Steve Ivancie said collaborating on a housing project would help the two groups build trust with each other - a result one Housing Authority official said should not be needed.
"We were appointed to fulfill an obligation to the city and county, and we have done that," said Housing Authority Board of Directors member Nancy Stahoviak, who is also a Routt County Commissioner. "What's missing here? What questions do we need to answer to make the council comfortable with the Housing Authority? Does City Council see a need for the Housing Authority?"
The Housing Authority was created by an intergovernmental agreement between city and county officials in 2003. Since then, the authority has established 92 affordable residences and has plans for as many as 108 more in 2007, according to Housing Authority Board of Directors President Mary Alice Page-Allen. However, questions have arisen regarding the authority's shaky finances and a perception of mistrust in the community.
But Tuesday night, the answer to Stahoviak's final question was yes.
"The council is on board with the Housing Authority," City Council President Susan Dellinger said. "We've spent two-and-a-half hours making it to that point."
"I'm a firm believer that we need to be working with the Housing Authority : and I think it's appropriate that we meet on a more regular basis," echoed City Councilman Paul Strong.
The next joint meeting of the City Council and Housing Authority is tentatively scheduled for April 10.
"I think what was evident here was the lack of a relationship," said Housing Authority Executive Director Elizabeth Black. "And hopefully, for the benefit of the community, that will change soon."
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