Sunday, February 21, 2010
We are voting on the city’s contract with Steamboat 700. This annexation is forever. To think that Steamboat Springs can, in the future, negotiate to guarantee affordable or attainable housing if this annexation agreement is approved March 9 is wishful thinking. Here’s the real story.
Deal alters WSSAP
Formulated with hundreds of hours of citizen input, the original West Steamboat Springs Area Plan required developers within the boundaries to build 30 percent of the residential units as affordable. Later in 2006, with minimal community input, the WSSAP was amended to reduce affordable homes to 20 percent of the total. Next, with input only from City Council, city staff and Steamboat 700, this annexation agreement substantively changes the primary goal of WSSAP by allowing Steamboat 700 to convey 15 undeveloped acres to the city.
Affordable housing not guaranteed
According to this agreement, if the city doesn’t develop housing within five years on a previously conveyed parcel, Steamboat 700’s obligation to convey additional parcels shall be suspended. If the city decides to sell the conveyed acreage in the future, the developer can buy it back or share in any profit from the sale. The city is not required to use the sale proceeds for affordable housing. The WSSAP cites affordable housing more than 50 times as a goal. Yet, nothing is written in this annexation agreement that requires anyone to actually build affordable housing.
This annexation agreement proposes to use the voluntary real estate transfer fee in the creation of affordable housing. However, the WSSAP states “… cost reduction for affordable housing needs to be shared by each participant, from the very first stage in the process.” Additionally, “it will be important that the development of the affordable component of any project not be deferred until after the market-rate portion is developed. This could result in neighborhood opposition, inaccurate estimates (and therefore unfeasible projects), or transfers of ownership without clear commitment for the affordable component.” The city’s deal with Steamboat 700 relies on the RETF to finance affordable housing, potentially delaying for years or prohibiting its deliverance, directly contradicting the WSSAP.
If the city pursues affordable housing on 2- and 3-acre parcels totaling 15 acres, 400 affordable housing units must be built to meet 20 percent of the total residential units. This works out to 26.67 homes an acre, a higher density than anywhere in the city. Homes will be 900 square feet — certainly not what the market wants according to two studies by the city and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. It is our opinion that the community won’t find either builders or lenders willing to become involved in this high-density format. It won’t find 400 buyers — singles and couples, many with children. Who would want to live in a mid-rise apartment building with such limited space, even with subsidies and down payment assistance?
This deal will disappoint
Working families with annual incomes of less than $95,000 who look to Steamboat 700 for attainable housing may be disappointed. Only the selling price of the attainable homes is restricted to an agreed upon range of targeted income levels. They will sell on the open market. For example, a buyer with an annual income of $212,000 can purchase a home priced to a targeted household income of $100,000. To compound the inequity, there is no owner occupancy requirement, and the anti-speculation fee extends a mere three years, hardly a deterrent to speculation. And sadly, if your family makes $80,000 a year, you may not be able to purchase a detached, single-family home, anyway.
Does the public benefit?
Creating adequate affordable housing to address the community’s needs is the overarching goal of the WSSAP, and the one clear benefit to the community that “substantially outweighs the cost of the annexation.” In our opinion, 400 units on 15 acres, a funding mechanism that 1.) prevents the simultaneous building of affordable housing and market-rate housing and 2.) does not guarantee affordable housing will be built, and a projected average sale price of a single family home of $617,000 make achieving this goal impossible.
Furthermore, the affordable housing component is intended to add housing for our service work force. At face value, this sounds good. In fact, the 400 units, if ever built, will only keep up with the demand that Steamboat 700 will create. There is no public benefit beyond what is required to receive a development permit. In our opinion there is less. Vote no on Referendum A.