Our View: Housing needs brought to light

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Although the conclusions of the recently completed Work Force Housing Demand Analysis may not come as a surprise, they provide the clearest, most accurate picture yet of what the city and others can do to meet Steamboat's housing needs.

The challenge that lies ahead for the city, county, Yampa Valley Housing Authority and local employers is adjusting existing ordinances and formulating a comprehensive plan to combat an issue much broader than simply the affordability of our housing stock.

As the $150,000 housing demand analysis revealed, the lack of affordable housing in Steamboat - be it ownership or rental - contributes to problems that have a significant impact on our success as a community and a competitive resort market.

At the top of that list is the existing labor shortage, one that includes the spectrum of workers, from nonskilled laborers to middle managers. It's no secret that Steamboat Springs employers are having an increasingly difficult time recruiting and retaining employees, and the availability and quality of housing remains one of the most significant factors.

Although home appreciation has increased at staggering levels throughout the past decade, income growth has lagged significantly behind. It has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for workers earning less than 120 percent of the area median income to purchase their own dwellings anywhere in Routt County, much less Steamboat Springs.

Rentals then become the only housing option, and Steamboat's rental supply falls well short of the need. Rental rates have increased significantly in recent years while the vacancy rate has decreased. The result is our work force spending a greater percentage of their paychecks on substandard rental units. The end result, of course, is our work force leaving Steamboat Springs for opportunities elsewhere. Employers spend more time and money recruiting new employees who similarly can't afford to stay in Steamboat Springs or aren't willing to sacrifice their quality of life to work multiple jobs.

The city's affordable housing ordinances, passed nearly two years ago, aimed to increase the supply of work force housing by forcing developers to provide a certain percentage of their units for deed-restricted housing. But the housing being created under those ordinances is falling short of the city's goals. They are providing a stock of deed-restricted units undesirable to those who are qualified to purchase them, and unattainable to those who are interested in them.

As City Council President Loui Antonucci acknowledged last week, "We're shooting in the dark. In order to ensure success of the whole program, we need to find out what people need and build accordingly."

A running joke in Steamboat is that we need to hire consultants to study our consultants. But with the Housing Market Demand Analysis conducted by Robert Charles Lesser & Co., the city got its money's worth. For the first time, officials have a clear indication of they types of housing needed and wanted by our work force. And they have been presented options by a third-party consultant without an emotional attachment to the housing issue.

Recommended options such as reducing the required lot size for single-family homes; building larger, off-mountain deed-restricted units; and increasing the supply of market-rate and income-restricted apartment units provide a point of entry for discussions that hopefully can lead to meaningful progress.

Comments

JLM 5 years, 11 months ago

This problem could be solved in 12 months by simply obtaining some land (how about the land adjoining the golf course) and building 1000 rental units at a density of 18 units per acre at 3-stories.

You could even build 4-bedroom, common living room and kitchen units suitable for seasonal workers. This is a very common product on college campuses.

If the City of SBS provided the land and took a 25% stake in the project, the developers would come running out of the woodwork to participate.

Local business could pre-lease approximately 65% of the units and the local banks could form a consortium to provide the construction financing --- pretty damn safe financing with 25% equity and 65% pre-leased.

Then they could get Freddie Mac to provide permanent financing (ooops, sorry, not funny).

It would take real leadership to do something so daring, would it not?

Absent such forceful leadership, we will still be "studying" and "consulting" a year from now with no progress.

Who on the City Council has such daring?

Well, unfortunately, nobody but it's always possible.

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canudigit 5 years, 11 months ago

What amazes me is that the housing authority has done this nice survey and knows what everyone wants. BUT the city doesn't want to expand the UGB to allow some of these properties to be built. I know there are issues with Steamboat 700 but, if everyone wants affordable 3 and 4 bedroom homes then where in the current city limits can we build it? Everything I see going up now is multi-family, very costly units. OR one bedroom units- how will my family of 5 fit into a one or two bedroom unit?

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