Sunday, February 21, 2010
Most Steamboat Springs residents — not everyone, but most of us — accept that our region will grow, so having a long-range plan to manage growth is essential.
Managing growth requires dealing with our imbalance between the supply of and demand for affordable housing. So our community has identified west Steamboat Springs as the best area available to plan for new affordable housing for today’s workers and to manage future growth.
Affordable housing confronts our community even in today’s economy. Far too many of our workers live outside the city not by choice, but because they cannot find adequate rental or for-sale housing in town.
That’s why now is the time for us to vote yes on Referendum A and annex Steamboat 700.
Land and money
The core of the Steamboat 700 affordable housing plan (read it at www.good4steamboat.com) has two parts:
■ Land donation program: Steamboat 700 will donate free parcels of land selected by the city in each phase of development. Analysis by city staff concludes that the land donation program alone will result in 400 affordable units at Steamboat 700.
■ Money: Steamboat 700 will have a transfer fee on property sales to fund affordable housing community-wide, estimated to generate between $12 million and $39 million during the next 20 years.
With these funds, the city and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority can focus on supply by financing new apartments or deed-restricted homes. Or we can focus on demand, such as making loans for down payment assistance programs as some local employers have for their employees.
These new housing resources also are good news for Steamboat jobs. They will help Steamboat retain our current businesses, attract new employers and diversify our local economy so we’re not so dependent on snowfall, softball and tourism to pay the bills.
More building blocks
The annexation also includes a robust plan for moderately priced housing for our community’s middle class. At least 30 percent of Steamboat 700’s market-rate housing is required to be priced for these households. And if that requirement is not being met, the city has the power to halt the next phase of development.
There’s also an anti-speculation provision to strongly discourage flipping of work force housing by imposing a financial penalty on quick re-sales.
This multi-pronged approach gives the city flexibility to meet changing needs throughout decades — a big improvement compared to a rigid, one-size-fits-all program of small, deed-restricted condos that don’t serve our community’s diverse needs. The city staff and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority support this approach, and so do we.
Let’s get serious
The Let’s Vote committee says there are no guarantees that affordable housing will be built at Steamboat 700. This is ludicrous.
The city will be in control of free land and tens of millions of dollars in new revenues from Steamboat 700 expressly for affordable housing. The insinuation that the city will shirk its own affordable housing goals is only meant to scare and confuse voters.
Further, Let’s Vote now proposes an “infill” solution to our housing needs: lock in the city’s current boundaries and build more density on empty parcels. Here’s the truth: the high land costs of those properties make significant housing development challenging and affordable housing virtually impossible. Also, Steamboat residents have shown little interest in accepting more density or traffic in their neighborhoods.
Moreover, what “guarantees” are there that infill developments will pay anything for school impacts or fixing U.S. Highway 40 congestion, for which Steamboat 700 is contributing tens of millions of dollars?
With Steamboat 700, the city has land and a perpetual revenue stream to control its destiny on affordable housing.
We know the economy and real estate market have changed. But voters should keep in mind that there have been three recessions in the past 20 years, two of them since the initiation of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan in 1995.
The last time the economy bounced back, there was no plan for work force housing, contributing to what the Steamboat Pilot & Today called an “insane run-up in home values.”
Looking forward, today’s third-graders will be 40 years old when Steamboat 700 could be nearing completion. For many, those are our kids and grandkids — and we want them to have the opportunity to live here, if they choose.
The other path is the slow evolution into an elite, “economically gated” community. Instead, let’s choose Steamboat 700 — a phased, long-term housing plan that’s good for Steamboat. Vote yes on Referendum A.