Updated May 29, 2008 at 3:04 p.m.
Editor's note: The original version of this editorial incorrectly stated that the acquisition of Dream Island would help Green Courte Partners satisfy its affordable housing requirements for the River Walk, Alpenglow and Howelsen Place development projects. Green Courte is interested in purchasing Dream Island to help satisfy its affordable housing requirements for the River Walk development only. The editorial has been updated to include the accurate information.
Last week's news that Chicago-based Green Courte Partners is under contract to purchase Dream Island Mobile Home Park presents an interesting scenario for the city of Steamboat Springs and its relatively new affordable housing mandates for developers.
Green Courte Partners and local developer Jim Cook say the property would be used to provide deed-restricted affordable housing and, importantly, to help them satisfy the affordable housing requirements mandated by city ordinance for the River Walk development in downtown Steamboat.
An inclusionary zoning and linkage ordinance passed by the City Council in June 2007 requires that developers provide deed-restricted affordable housing as part of their projects.
It seems clear that the council's intent when passing the inclusionary zoning ordinance was to make developers provide an increased supply of affordable housing for Steamboat's work force. But Green Courte's proposal - and it's a clever one - would simply take existing stock of relatively affordable housing and ensure that it remains in place. When the city adopted the inclusionary zoning ordinance last year, it didn't include a "no net loss" provision that would have set requirements for providing new affordable housing on top of those units replaced in a redevelopment project such as Dream Island.
Green Courte's purchase and its impact on the community is complex for a number of reasons, including the benefits such a purchase could have on the existing residents of Dream Island despite the failure to actually create new affordable units. Cook says Green Courte is interested in pursuing ways to allow current Dream Island residents to become owners instead of renters - but it's unclear whether that means the land on which their homes sit, or just the homes themselves.
Green Courte also plans significant upgrades for the eclectic mobile home community, including improved roads, landscaping, lighting and tighter oversight of neighborhood covenants, all of which are needed. There's even a possibility Green Courte would gradually replace Dream Island's older homes with new ones and give the current residents the first opportunity to buy them. Other scenarios being considered by Green Courte include offering owners 99-year leases on their lots.
The Dream Island discussion is incomplete without noting other possibilities for Dream Island.
With its riverfront location and close proximity to downtown Steamboat, Dream Island is a prime chunk of real estate in a growing resort community. The current owners of Dream Island, Colorado Real Estate Investment Co., admit they've been shopping the mobile home park to potential purchasers. It was therefore quite possible for a developer with no interest in preserving affordable housing on site to redevelop the property, although potential hurdles to such a move include the site's floodplain location and the existing zoning of the neighborhood.
We've said before that it's easier to hold on to the community housing we already have than it is to create new affordable housing. In that regard, Green Courte's purchase has the potential to keep Dream Island a neighborhood for working-class residents, albeit with some needed improvements along the way.
But the city's affordable housing ordinances were geared toward making developers create new affordable housing, and not necessarily convert existing affordable housing into, well, affordable housing. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the passage of the inclusionary zoning ordinance, Green Courte's purchase provides the impetus for City Council to review its affordable housing ordinance and revisit issues such as whether those ordinances should include a "no net loss" provision.