The push for a better understanding of housing needs



Average occupational wages (hourly)

Routt County median income (1 person)

2006 $50,900

2007 51,500

2008 53,000

Median income for Colorado counties (1 person)

Boulder: $60,900

Denver: 50,300

Eagle: 58,700

Hinsdale: 39,600

Kiowa: 37,700

Moffat: 38,700

Pitkin: 68,300

Routt: 53,000

— Numbers often dominate discussions about affordable housing in Steamboat Springs.

Developers often are told to target their community housing requirements at people who make a certain percentage of the area median income - equating professions and lives with statistics. But a growing number of people are beginning to ask whether there is enough understanding of what the numbers actually mean and whom affordable housing policies will really serve.

Without that understanding, some believe, the city's policies may not be properly aimed at those members of the community it intends to protect.

Danny Mulcahy's opinion on the subject is clear: "No more decisions without information." Mulcahy, principal and project manager for the planned Steamboat 700 development,

feels strongly enough about the need for information that he has pledged $50,000 - of the $150,000 needed - for an in-depth microanalysis of housing needs in Steamboat.

"We've been making decisions without any data for a long time," Mulcahy said. "We just want real information."

The city plans to contribute another $50,000 for the study. The remainder would be provided by other developers and through the fundraising efforts of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

"I don't think we have a total understanding," said Donna Howell, executive director of the Housing Authority. "If we don't have accurate information that is very specific to Steamboat, I think we're doing a disservice to the community."

While some information already exists - such as the AMI figures published annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and local assessments of housing needs - officials say nothing provides the type of specific, in-depth look at Steamboat's housing needs that the proposed analysis would.

"The housing needs assessment that has been completed is more of a macro study," Howell said. The new, proposed study "will give us an opportunity to get more specific data that will help in terms of what the product is. It gives us more information on a location-specific basis."

Nancy Engelken, the city's community housing coordinator, said that in addition to income information, there needs to be a better understanding of what people can afford, what they need and what they desire.

"We don't know what that breakdown is in terms of what do households look like here," Engelken said.

AMI is calculated according to household size. Although a family often is implied when defining a household, the definition of a household simply is any collection of individuals living together. As a result, a household of three could mean anything from a single mother with two children to three adults with full-time jobs.

These arrangements could have greatly divergent housing desires. Engelken said the market analysis would help people meet those desires.

"It will give a lot of direction to the city as well as the development community," she said.

Whom to help

Mulcahy's community housing plan for Steamboat 700, the planned development west of Steamboat that proposes about 2,000 new homes, has put him at odds with city staff.

The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which provides community development guidelines for land including the Steamboat 700 parcel, requires developers to provide 20 percent of their homes as affordable housing to people who make an average of 80 percent of AMI. Mulcahy proposes to target an average of 120 percent of AMI.

Mulcahy said his target is based on conversations he has had with members of the community that suggest the workforce Steamboat officials are interested in retaining earns more than 80 percent of AMI. He also says his plan will provide a larger percentage of ownership units rather than rental ones.

Mulcahy said he "strongly believes" in a range of housing options. The city has been unwilling to waver from its adopted requirements, but that could change depending on the results of the demand analysis.

"If the study shows that the city isn't addressing it appropriately, the city should change its stance," Mulcahy said.

Howell agreed.

"I think the most critical part of it is that we use the information that we gather," she said.

Noreen Moore, business resource director for the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative, said she is excited to see the study's results.

"I think we have a lot of emotion and a lot of anecdotal information right now," Moore said. "Basing public policy on that is dangerous. Good, hard data will really help us focus."

Moore has advocated an approach to affordable housing that focuses more on young professionals who probably make more than 120 percent of AMI but still struggle to make ends meet in Steamboat. Moore said she isn't suggesting the lowest wage earners be ignored, but she argues that companies very important to Steamboat's economy are threatened by struggles to recruit and retain employees in the face of a rapidly escalating cost of living.

"It should give the community a better way to deal with the problem," Mulcahy said of the study. "Hopefully it gets to a point where everybody is hitting different segments of the market at the same time."


another_local 9 years ago

Great! Bring on the studies! The amount we have spent on studies in the last 5 years would have paid for the Iron Horse outright. What a waste.


boatski 9 years ago

Danny Mulcahy's opinion on the subject is clear: "No more decisions without information." It's about time someone stood up to the city's "cart before the horse" approach to affordable housing. Way to go Danny, putting up $50,000 for information the city and housing authority should be providing, what are we paying them for?


colowoodsman 9 years ago

Why is it OK for tax money to support the tourism industry but not OK to help support those that work there or are displaced by it ???


colowoodsman 9 years ago

No study or disscussion will be of any value that does not recognize the monopoly the tourist industry has on local housing.


JustAsking 9 years ago

How much has the city already collected in developer fees? Where is the money? Isn't it interesting that a developer had to push and fund a study for current information?

Do the curent income restrictions prevent purchasing the current inventory of mandated "affordable housing?"



JustAsking 9 years ago


What is your point? The industry here IS tourism. Naturally any area that relies on an industry for it's economy will be responsive to that industry be it cattle, cotton, lumber, oil, manufacturing, or tourism.

Fact is Steamboat is TOTALLY dependent on tourism. If you want to see Steamboat without tourism you only need look as far as Milner.


jack legrice 9 years ago

When is the CC going to get that we do not want our tax monies spent on anything to do with affordable housing. They have no right to force anyone to provide affordable housing. If you can't afford to live here -Tough Get off your lazy butts and earn it yourself. There are many of us that have been able to do it. I suppose you want us to help wipe your butts too!!!! No City Support For Affordable Housing. Also No to the 700 annex. Just another can of worms. The CC doesn't have a clue of the long range problems this will create. They are trying to rush this through. It isn't always best to chase the almighty buck. But again this is what this town has become.I am glad that I got to enjoy it before the greed mongers took over. I feel bad for those of you who just moved here for the Quality of life. You missed it.Hope your Spanish is good!!!!


thecondoguy1 9 years ago

understanding, we don't need no schtinking understanding, the affordable housing should go to my friends.......


MtnWarlock 9 years ago

oneski, You speak the truth when you say;

If you can't afford to live here -Tough Get off your lazy butts and earn it yourself. There are many of us that have been able to do it.

     I have lived here 25+ years now and nobody made it easy for me. It is just as hard to make it here in Steamboat "now" as it was back in the early 80s when I moved here. I still have two+ jobs! I am really tired of all this money spent on studies "BS"! Making laws that eliminate mobile homes except for grandfathered areas, and strongly suggests they are considered an abomination and detestable to our housing infrastructure because of their appearance and appeal to the landscape. This is a crock of "BS" ! IT"S AFORDABLE HOUSNG! I guess it's just another way of people to prejudice people of lower incomes from being their neighbors, in my opinion! Not In My Back Yard or Not In My County is the sentiment I detect here. I'm surprised the city and county have not bulldozed every trailer park we have! They sure have done a good job on two we had. Urban development, yeah I forgot.

colowoodsman, You are right! That's another Steamboat wonderment I have!

All, It's a fact that land is gold. The closer it is to the ski hill, the more pricey it gets! Development of affordable housing in Steamboat is a joke at best. The housing cost is not bad until you have to put it on land here! Everyone knows what the values are and everybody wants their share of the pie. Nobody is going to just give something away because of a underprivileged few. Like the old golden rule says; He Who Has The Gold Makes The rules! It's more a battle of "greed" than it is housing, sorry. I think you need to ask ourselves these questions first; #1) Would anyone of you give away any of your equity in your home or land, so their would be affordable housing to help the effort? #2) Would you like someone telling you that you can only make "X" amount of a return on your investment to accommodate for this issue? This is why we don't have affordable housing and why it's oxymoron to even use it in the same sentence. Just my observation through the years.


retiredinss 9 years ago

In earlier fora I have suggested that a definition of the 'need' for 'affordable' housing must be made. Who is it that needs the housing and why do they need it? As I then mentioned, I suspect that we are not providing housing for lawyers so that they can live in town, but rather expect that the law firms will pay so that they can hire lawyers. I further suspect that the same applies to doctors, either in private practice or at the hospital, as well as other medical professionals. We expect that their practices and / or the hospital will pay them appropriately. Ditto teachers. The School Board has the means to determine adequate salaries for teachers to insure that sufficient numbers are hired. Until we have a definition of the problem discussion of potential solutions is largely tilting at windmills. Please can we define the problem?


dundalk 9 years ago

Even more appalling then the reported teacher's salary, on the front page of Sunday's paper, is the omission of a starting firefighter's wage - a paultry $11.00 and change. Just how are our brave fire fighters supposed to eek out an existance in this resort town on wages comparable to depression rates?


JLM 9 years ago

The problem with "affordable housing" is that nobody really wants to provide the housing that is truly affordable --- mobile homes, apartments, zero lot line houses, small single family houses, new urbanism mixed use development.

They want to have "cheap or inexpensive or subsidized" housing that is better than what one can truly "afford". Case in point --- the poor 'young professionals' who cannot afford what they simply want. The senior partner always lives better than the associate. That has nothing to do with housing but rather just business.

We are talking intstant gratification rather than affordability.

If SBS wants working class folks who are actually employed in SBS to be able to put a roof over their heads and live in the community then they will have to start by providing developers with "initiatives" to build exactly the kind of housing that is required rather than "penalties" which are simply subsidized by the kind of projects developers want to build to meet market demand.

SBS can get affordable housing by providing land, incentives, lower regulatory costs and lower taxes to developers in return for building truly nice mobile home parks, premanufactured housing communities, apartments, zero lot line housing, bungalow type small single family homes and new urbanism mixed use developments.

When the marketplace provides the same economic development opportunities and incentives to create affordable housing as it does for new development --- the freakin' market will respond.

When you allow governments to penalize the market by requiring subsidiaries for protected and selected classes of folks, you will have Soviet style planned economies which simply do not work.

The Peoples Republic of Steamboat Springs has to get out of the way and let the market forces shape the solution. That's the essence of capitalism. Tourism is one of the most capitalistically driven business enterprises ever --- the market votes with their feet and their cash.

Stop creating barriers and penalties and start providing reasonable free market incentives and the market will make it work.

The affordability of computing capacity today and the imposition of Moore's Algorithm/Curve are real world examples of what can happen when markets are allowed to operate freely.

Capitalism and free markets --- it's what really works!


colowoodsman 9 years ago

Anyone who belives the wage and earnings reported in todays paper would probably be interested in some of the ocean front property I have for sale right here in Routt Co. Low down payment and flexible terms! I even have special rates for those poor people Noreen Moore is so concerned about that only make 120% of the AIM (over $100,000 per year)and still can't afford to live in SS. I think it is very interesting that Moore also works for the Steamboat Chamber Resort Assoc. whose members control a majority of the rental housing in Steamboat.


colowoodsman 9 years ago

I know capitalism and free markets really work. Just look at Wal-Mart. Started by Sam Walton with just one store and mostly American made products, Wal-Mart has grown to a worldwide chain that has put thousands of small retailers out of buisness and is a major contributor to our $300 Billion trade deficit with 'Communist' China! Yea! Let's hear it for Capitalism!


green77 9 years ago

I think affordable housing is a good thing. Condos have almost doubled in price in the last few years here. Even with two jobs I couldn't afford to buy one on my own. How many homes go unoccupied most of the year while people who live here year round have to rent because they couldn't afford the mortgage payments if they tried to own?


addlip2U 9 years ago

Not everyone has to own a house or a condo.

Seasonal employees come and go for a season or two. They want to rent an apartment. Not to pile 12 people into a two bedroom condo with overpriced rent because the management companies take 50% off the rent for themselves.

The owner rather leaves the condo empty, than collect a low fee while paying the utility bills and is faced with having the condo trashed.

Let the private sector take care of it and leave the City and it's taxpayers out of it.

As sbvor said: Affordable Housing is, in ALL CASES, provided exclusively through the private market providing a supply which is in balance with the demand.


424now 9 years ago

Danny Mulcahy donated $50,000.00 for the study. Now theres a number for you. 50,000

50,000 all American dollars.

I wonder... what is the average combined family income is for the individual households of Steamboat Springs?

I don't mean the part time homeowners. I mean the business owners and the employees of the mountain. I mean the people who will live and die here in the Boat.

How much does a young family make in a year? Heck how much does an older proffesional rake in. When you talk affordable, do you mean something that a family like that could buy?

Are these studies done so they can find some kind of way to justify 600,000 dollar houses?

Can a young family making a combined 50,000 a year afford a house at that cost? I honestly don't think they can.


MtnWarlock 9 years ago

424now, At 50k, a couple would need 5K down and 24% 0f annual income would equal a payment of $1000k per month. You may be able to rent or purchase a trailer for that price or income level but, never anything else. Affordable in Steamboat terms is abbot 1800k to 2600k monthly payments! For most, that's not affordable unless that's all you want to do is work and own a home. That's the way I started here but, that was 25 years ago. I still have two jobs! Giving away my sweat equity in my home in the name of affordable housing, would be hard to give being that I worked 25 years to get where I am! Like I said in my earlier blog; affordable housing in Steamboat is a joke! It's like a dog chasing a tail. Greed will always win, affordability will always loose. It seem to me that the only affordable housing is housing in which people can pay for is the affordable housing here. And that narrows it down to a select few, anymore. The other way was is to have the government do imminent domain on land, make deed restrictions on what can be built, how much it can be sold for in the event of turn over. I would not suggest such a hostle action of any kind like that! Just an extreme "sick" example!


424now 9 years ago

2.6K is insane.

Well lets see, I gave up booze and smoking that did save me a bit. Now if I can just get over the need to eat I might be able to afford 2.6K. I keep saving and I'm putting away a decent amount. Eventually I'll have enough to buy one outright. Granted I'll be 65 by then.

Seriously though, I 'm beggining to realize, I'll have to resign myself to living out on the forty if I want to own. It's to bad thoough I like it here in town.


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