Steamboat Springs It comes as no surprise that a recent survey revealed a tax to support affordable housing faces long odds in Steamboat Springs.
The survey does underscore the need for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and the city of Steamboat Springs to get on the same page.
The Housing Authority has been working on possible tax funding for months. Last month, it conducted a survey that showed a tax - in any form - is unlikely to pass. The best results the authority got was 52 percent support for a sales tax that would provide a penny for every $10 spent. That would barely cover the agency's administrative costs.
"It would keep the lights on and the doors open," said Mary Alice Page-Allen, president of the Housing Authority board of directors. "But there would be nothing : that would generate a pool of funds to help us build projects."
More significant taxes would fail, the survey showed.
From the outset, we have said the community simply is not ready to support such a tax. The cost of housing in Steamboat ranks among the top 6 percent in the country; yet, the rate of home ownership is above the national average. It is unrealistic to expect those homeowners, who make up a greater proportion of voters overall, to tax themselves to fund housing that could work against their financial interest by slowing the appreciation of their home values.
The Housing Authority has shown slow but steady progress on the affordable housing front in projects such as West End Village, Fox Creek, the acquisition of Fish Creek Mobile Home Park and Elk River Village. Without better funding, the future of such projects is in jeopardy.
Ironically, the City Council recently adopted a linkage and inclusionary zoning ordinance that could produce millions of dollars annually for affordable housing. (The amount could have been more if the council had not made the mistake of restricting to the base of the ski area the opportunity for developers to pay fees in lieu of building affordable housing).
Individual council members have said they believe the new linkage fees will be used to help fund Housing Authority projects, but the council has yet to formulate a specific spending plan.
As noted above, we believe the Housing Authority has managed to create and complete affordable housing projects in the past despite little to no funding. We supported the agency's creation in 2003 by the City Council and Routt County commissioners, and we continue to believe all affordable housing initiatives should be funneled through the agency.
The city, as City Councilman Loui Antonucci says, has no business being in the housing business. It would be a shame - not to mention a foolish waste of money - for the city to pursue its own housing efforts with its newfound revenues while allowing the Housing Authority to flounder for a lack of funds.
We acknowledge the Housing Authority has issues to address, most specifically the recent resignation of Director Elizabeth Black. But the agency's track record is commendable given its limited resources - it has accomplished the mission it was given.
Imagine what the agency could do with better funding. That's certainly food for thought for City Council members.