Yampa Valley Housing Authority fund request met with doubt from city

YVHA seeks funding for new position amid tight local budgets

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— As budget season revs up in Steamboat Springs, where city officials are analyzing 2011 finances from the ground up, Yampa Valley Housing Authority officials are receiving tentative reactions to a request for a funding boost.

Rich Lowe, president of the Housing Authority’s board of directors, told the Steamboat Springs City Council last week that the Housing Authority is asking for $140,000 from Steamboat in 2011. That’s a substantial increase from the $80,000 that the city contributed to the Housing Authority this year and in 2009. The city’s contribution to the Housing Authority was $105,000 in 2008. Lowe said the increased funds in 2011 would help pay for a new staffer, a housing qualifications specialist who would take on duties similar to those of the city’s former community housing coordinator, Nancy Engelken.

Routt County has contributed $80,000 annually to the Housing Authority for the past three years. The Housing Authority is asking for $88,000 from the county in 2011. Lowe gave a simple reason for the disparity in requests to the city and county.

“The data suggests that the housing gap, in terms of affordability, exists in Steamboat,” Lowe said, pointing to a greater need for affordable housing within city limits than in Hayden or Oak Creek, for example. “That shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody.”

The consistency of city and county contributions to the Housing Authority in recent years led Lowe to refer to the contributions as a “traditional” funding source — a term that City Council President Cari Hermacinski said makes her “cringe” this year.

The city is conducting a zero-budget process for 2011, in which each line item is analyzed from scratch and not based on expenditures in previous years. Hermacinski said the Housing Authority request has to be weighed against other expenditures, a process that will kick into gear during the City Council’s budget hearing Oct. 5.

“Frankly, I don’t know if the coordinator position is one that would get funded,” she said last week, referring to the new Housing Authority position. “As far as I’m concerned, that request is completely up in the air until we go through the October budget hearing.”

“I’m not sure if I see that extra money coming out of the budget this year,” Councilman Jon Quinn added.

Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush also said the Housing Authority request has to be viewed in the larger budget picture.

City Council did give immediate support to the Housing Authority’s down payment assistance program, however, unanimously approving $100,000 for the program Tuesday.

That money will come from the city’s community housing fund, which collects fees the city receives through its affordable housing policies. Steamboat’s interim finance director, Deb Hinsvark, said before the allocation that the housing fund had a balance of $400,000, of which $220,000 was unrestricted.

Lowe said the Housing Auth­ority’s down payment assistance program has issued a total of about $200,000 through 19 loans to Routt County families.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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