Steamboat Springs A broad group of some of Steamboat Springs' most influential developers, businesspeople, municipal staff, elected officials and others has assembled to take a fresh look at affordable housing.
"We're trying to look at the problem from a much broader perspective than it has been looked at previously," said Bud Romberg, founder and chairman of the group that has come to be known as the "affordable housing roundtable."
Romberg is a former board member of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and a current board member of Habitat for Humanity. Romberg called together a group to deal with the question of housing, and the response was tremendous. Meetings have included major employers such as Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., major developers such as Steamboat 700 principle and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy, and officials from governmental entities across Routt County.
"Right now, we're just a group of people looking to define a problem," Mulcahy said. "It's the best group that I've come across to discuss affordable housing so far."
Meeting attendance has been as high as 30 people. Romberg believes the response is a sign that the issue of affordable living in the Yampa Valley has reached a new head.
"This whole question of affordability has come to the forefront," Romberg said. "It had to finally get to a point where it was affecting enough people that it became a community issue."
Since it started meeting three months ago, the affordable housing roundtable has operated discreetly. While public officials such as Steamboat Springs City Councilman Scott Myller and Yampa Town Board Trustee Karen Tussey have attended meetings, Romberg said the group "very purposefully" kept their numbers low. Therefore, the group is not subject to state laws that would require its meetings to be public and advertised.
Romberg said the intention is not to be secretive or to subvert the work of any other body. He said the group simply hoped to better define itself before going public.
"I don't think it's a matter of flying under the radar," Romberg said. "It's a matter of figuring out who we are and what we want to do."
For now, Romberg said the group is focusing on better understanding the issue of affordable housing and affordability in general. What the group ultimately will do has yet to be decided. Romberg said it might be a difficult question to answer given the complexity of the issue.
"Part of the problem has been that affordable housing is only part of the overall affordability question," Romberg said. "At this point, we're still trying to find our way."
Donna Howell, executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, has attended meetings of the affordable housing roundtable. She said the group is not duplicating the work of the Housing Authority because it is not doing any data gathering or building any affordable housing. Nancy Engelken, the city of Steamboat Springs' community housing coordinator, said the group has functioned "very much as a networking organization."
Engelken and Myller said there is great value in the roundtable being a grassroots initiative of the public, rather than a typical government committee, board or commission.
"If it came from the people instead of the government, maybe it would sell better," Myller said of potential solutions the roundtable might develop. "We definitely take good plans and good ideas."
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