A 5-2 vote by the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday changed the rules for selling the affordable condominiums in Howelsen Place, but no one knows what the new rules are.
Council voted in favor of allowing Howelsen Place developer Green Courte Partners to sell six remaining one-bedroom condos formerly reserved for qualified buyers under income-based deed restrictions to market-rate buyers. In exchange, Green Courte has agreed to make cash payments to the city's affordable housing fund at the closing of each unit. A seventh unit sold under the previous deed restrictions is occupied by a longtime Steamboat resident.
The big unknown is how much fee in lieu the city will receive.
City Planning Director Tom Leeson said Thursday that the new fee will be the prevailing fee at closing, presumably the amount council approves during a scheduled Aug. 4 vote on revisions to the city's community housing ordinance.
Green Courte's Mark Scully told council this week that his organization would be happy to sell the units under affordability guidelines but no one is interested in them with those terms attached.
"You need to know that no one wants these units," Scully said. "You wouldn't advise a friend to buy them (under deed restrictions) with an annual appreciation cap of 3 percent. You can't finance it, and you can't sell it."
The affordable housing units represent an anomaly in Steamboat Springs' overall community housing picture. They preceded the city's inclusionary zoning ordinance, which required developers to build affordable units. Instead, they were offered as a community benefit by the developers to win city approval for building height and parking variances. The variances allowed Howelsen Place to build a fourth floor and consequently additional market-rate units.
Council members Meg Bentley and Steve Ivancie voted against granting Green Courte permission to sell the units, which are 625 to 800 square feet, at market rates.
"I will not be supporting this," Bentley told her colleagues. "It will not be commensurate with the (previous) community benefit."
Scully said pending the amount of the fee in lieu, he anticipates selling the units for $300,000 to $400,000.
"I'd submit there's a public benefit to that," Scully said.
The six units in question vary from one another in layout and minor features - three have concrete patios, three do not; some have kitchen bars, others are laid out to accommodate small dining tables. All have a single bathroom situated off the bedroom. Stacked washers and dryers are in a closet next to the refrigerator. They have 9- and 10-foot ceilings.
Finish and trim levels are higher than one might expect in an affordable unit and include high-grade carpeting, Silestone kitchen counters, stainless steel refrigerators, expensive door hardware and windows.
Beth Postemski, managing broker for Ski Town Lifestyle Properties, the in-house real estate arm for Green Courte's downtown mixed-use buildings, said the units were finished to a high level because they are intermingled with the larger market-rate condominiums in the project at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Seventh Street.
"You have to realize the condominium directly across the hall from the unit we're standing in is priced at $825,000," Postemski said.
Like the more expensive residences, the formerly deed-restricted units come with underground parking and a ski locker at the mountain, Postemski said. Storage may be an issue for full-time residents in the one-bedroom units, but residents are welcome to use an outdoor living space that includes a fire pit and barbecue grills.
The more expensive condos at Howelsen Place are priced at $1.47 million and $1.6 million and nudge $500 per square foot.
Postemski said that when the city fees are known and she is cleared to market the one-bedroom units at market rates, she'll be pitching them to a variety of potential buyers, including food servers and bartenders who make their livings in the downtown restaurant district that surrounds Howelsen Place.