Editorial Board, June 2009 to September 2009
- Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Mike Lawrence, city editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Grant Fenton, community representative
- Paul Strong, community representative
Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
Steamboat Springs Many of the proposed changes to Steamboat Springs' community housing ordinance offer the promise of fixing a flawed policy, but such efforts may be premature so long as there is no clarity on what the city hopes to accomplish in the way of affordable housing.
This isn't a new problem for the city. Although affordable housing has been a hot-button issue for years, there has been little consistency in the city's efforts to measure results. Without such consistency, the city and its residents have little clue whether initiatives such as the community housing ordinance are working.
A previous City Council adopted the ordinance in 2007. It mandates that developers build affordable housing, or provide the city a payment in lieu of constructing affordable, deed-restricted units. Many in the community, including this newspaper's Editorial Board, applauded that council's initiative.
But we also recognized the need for flexibility.
City staff and the current council are in the midst of revising the ordinance. Many of the changes are good. Developers, for example, shouldn't be punished for providing affordable housing options beyond the boundaries of their specific development. Compliance methods for the retooled ordinance include developing on-site or off-site units, dedicating on-site or off-site lots, dedicating land or making payments in lieu - including a voluntary real estate transfer fee.
The latter concerns us the most. Real estate transfer fees now are illegal in Colorado, and the questionable legal status of a "voluntary" fee could leave the city - and its residents - out in the cold if challenged in court. Wouldn't it be a shame to return tens of thousands of dollars in real estate transfer fees when the city could have instead collected a sure thing in the form of traditional fee-in-lieu payments?
The council is scheduled to vote on the revised community housing ordinance this month. But this brings us back to the bigger point: Are these efforts somewhat moot without any real affordable housing master plan?
Consider the following:
- How will the money collected via the fee-in-lieu provision be spent?
- Who will administer those funds?
- What is the long-term role of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority?
- How do the city's affordable housing plans mesh with the results of the housing demand analysis?
- Is there a specific revenue goal for the affordable housing fund?
- Are there any affordable housing projects in the works? Plans for future projects?
- How will the city measure the success of its community housing ordinance?
Here's another way to think about it: Five, 10 and 20 years from now, what does the city hope it has accomplished in terms of affordable housing? Until we have an answer for that question, efforts to address an issue we haven't clearly defined may be futile.
Rees Consulting/RRC Associates produced a community housing plan implementation program for the city in December 2006. Among other things, the plan sets affordable housing goals, objectives and an action plan. But nothing in the program suggests how to measure whether the goals, objectives and action plan are being met.
A group of residents, with some city staff involvement, is forming a committee in hopes of establishing a mechanism for measuring desired results. It's worth monitoring their efforts, because without clear direction, we'll never know whether our affordable housing initiatives are on target.