YVHA considers staff cut

Housing Authority plans to trim itself to one position, sell vacant land parcels

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— In an effort to save itself from dissolution, the Yampa Valley Housing Authority agreed in principle Thursday to cut its staff to one while also attempting to sell its vacant land parcels.

During a board meeting Thursday, Housing Authority officials said slashing its staff from three to one would save $160,000 next year. The lone position, called an assets and program manager, would be responsible for the continued management of Hillside Village Apartments, Fox Creek Village and the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park.

The positions held by Executive Director Donna Howell, Assistant Director Curtis Church and an office manager would cease to exist. The recommendation to eliminate the positions came from the staff members themselves, as well as the Housing Authority's Finance Committee.

Howell said it came as no surprise the organization was forced to make the tough decision.

"We've been building a budget for a month, so we knew we had some options out there," Howell said.

The board of directors will vote on the proposal as part of the Housing Authority's 2009 budget at its Dec. 11 meeting.

The Housing Authority discussed the option of selling both of its undeveloped properties - the Elk River site and 0.36 acres in the Sierra View development in Oak Creek - and keeping current staff on the payroll, but officials agreed there was no guarantee the properties could be sold soon enough to avoid falling into debt.

The decision at the end of Thursday's meeting was to accept the recommendation to cut staff at the end of the year and sell the 10-acre Elk River property but keep the Sierra View lot until all options are explored.

"The whole reason they decided to put the property on the market is that they're spending down the reserve," Howell said.

The new position of asset and program manager would be filled through an interview process. The employee would be paid a salary of $50,000 to $60,000, if the board approves the budget at next month's meeting. There is no indication whether the position would be filled by a current Housing Authority employee.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said it was a real possibility that the Housing Authority wouldn't exist in a year if it didn't find a way to balance its budget.

"There is another option to have a budget that ends before Dec. 31, 2009, with the assumption that if things don't change, we're not here by September 2009," she said.

Howell said the organization has no plans to expand or offer additional affordable housing options in the immediate future, and the demise of the Housing Authority has been discussed often during her one-year tenure.

A dissolution "has been talked about before," she said. "It's a viable possibility that, as they go through the next year, they may find themselves dissolving the organization."

Another option discussed by the board at a retreat at the end of October is to ask voters to provide a sustainable form of revenue for YVHA. That possibility will be discussed again at the organization's December meeting.

The Housing Authority receives annual funding from Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs. The two entities created the Housing Authority in 2003 and charged it with creating affordable housing options in Routt County. In 2008, the county gave $80,000, while the city contributed $105,000. The organization's operating budget was $311,000 for the current year. The remainder of its revenues come primarily from grants, fees and the management of housing projects.

YVHA currently manages Hillside Village Apartments, Fox Creek Village and Fish Creek Mobile Home Park, which it purchased last year. The Housing Authority will continue to manage those properties, Howell said. Should the organization fold, Howell said the city would take over management responsibilities.

YVHA and city officials have met in recent months to determine the roles each would play in providing affordable housing to low- and moderate-income families in the county. The city has inclusionary zoning and linkage ordinances that require developers to provide affordable hous-ing units or make a payment in lieu, and it recently hired a community housing coordinator.

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