If you go
What: Next forum in affordable housing series, "Maintaining affordability: Will your kids be able to live here?"
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Where: Rex's American Grill & Bar, 3190 S. Lincoln Ave.
Call: Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, 875-7000
Steamboat Springs A panel of local officials tried Friday to add a human aspect to the affordable housing discussion.
Economist Scott Ford provided examples for the second forum in the affordable housing series put on by the Chamber Economic Development Council, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. and the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors. The examples, he told the packed house at Rex's American Grill & Bar, were not real people.
But they could be.
"Oftentimes, when we talk work force, it becomes somewhat invisible," Ford said. "The names are made up, but this puts a face to it."
The forum focused on the economic realities of housing Steamboat's work force. Ford offered three scenarios: a single woman making $47,240 a year, a couple making $66,800 a year and hoping to start a family, and a couple with three children making $100,000 a year.
Options were scarce. Michael Hurley, a developer with ARIA Property International, looked up listings in Steamboat Springs as Ford talked about his characters' needs. The single woman and the couple might be able to find something. Steamboat offered zero homes that matched the needs of the couple with three children.
"The cheapest single-family house listed in Steamboat is $499,000," Hurley said. The second cheapest was $599,000.
After looking at those figures, the panel presented more numbers, this time from a developer's perspective. Hurley went through the costs of building affordable housing.
He looked at a residential project the Yampa Valley Housing Authority is working on in west Steamboat. If half the units are priced for a family of four that makes 80 percent of the area median income, the project will bring a return on costs of about 6 percent, Hurley said.
Most developers and the banks that lend to them would consider that an unacceptable risk, he said. An increase in costs or other issues could wipe out that return, Hurley said.
Even when a developer designates 15 percent of the units as affordable, the return on costs comes out to less than 15 percent, Hurley said. Developers might look at a 20 percent return on costs as sufficient to hedge risks and make a profit.
"We try to maintain a minimum hurdle rate so if we can make this, great," he said. "And so if we have a few stuff-ups, we don't go broke."
The final part of the panel, which Jane Blackstone of The Atira Group moderated, featured statistics from Noreen Moore, business resource director of the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative.
Moore's message: People want to live and work in Steamboat, but they can't afford it.
"It's not about affordable housing," Moore said. "It's about housing."
Conveying that idea to the community is crucial, she said. Developers can't bear the full burden for affordable housing, Hurley said.
"If everybody was really listening, affordable housing has to come from subsidies," Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. "Is everyone in this room ready to spend money to subsidize affordable housing? If not, we're going to lose our community."
Housing needs also were on the agenda last week for the Housing Authority. The agency met with businesses and other entities Thursday to discuss its housing market demand analysis. Robert Charles Lesser & Co. will conduct the study, which will include analyses of the housing supply, demographics and the economy.
The company also will survey employers and employees and hold forums. The goal, Housing Authority Executive Director Donna Howell said, is to collect data that will guide city and county policies as well as developers' residential construction.
Area employers, Steamboat Springs, Routt County, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and others are funding the study, which is expected to cost from $120,000 to $146,000, Howell said.
The Housing Authority expects a report on those results in August.