Our View: Don’t waste time with ballot question

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Editorial Board, January through May 8, 2011

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Traci Day, community representative
  • Dean Vogelaar, community representative

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— It’s simple: A ballot issue asking voters to approve a property tax to support the Yampa Valley Housing Authority will not pass.

Given the likelihood of such an outcome, the Housing Authority would be better served working with the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County on a plan to effectively manage the assets it already has. At the top of that list is determining how to get out from under a $2 million interest-only loan for a parcel of undeveloped land off Elk River Road near U.S. Highway 40.

The Housing Auth­ority’s board of directors is schedule to meet Feb. 10, when it could receive a recommendation from its strategic planning committee to move forward with a November ballot question. While a ballot question may have had a chance at success several years ago, it seems extremely unlikely that residents beaten down by a struggling economy will agree to tax themselves to solve an issue — affordable housing — that doesn’t currently exist.

Perhaps the ballot question would serve simply as a referendum from the community on the overall need for a housing authority to oversee affordable housing efforts. But for those who would just assume the Yampa Valley Housing Authority go away, be careful what you wish for.

The Housing Authority, formed through an intergovernmental agreement between the city and county almost a decade ago, owns and/or manages several properties. Those responsibilities include overseeing the Hillside Village apartments and the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park. Both of those projects are revenue-generators, albeit small ones. The Housing Authority also manages a relatively new down payment assistance program, to which the city donated $100,000.

Significantly, the Housing Authority also is encumbered by the $2 million interest-only loan on the Elk River Village land parcel. The Housing Authority is making about $110,000 a year in payments on the loan. Housing Authority Board President Rich Lowe describes the loan as an anvil on the back of the agency. Efforts to sell the property have been unsuccessful.

Those management duties and debt payments won’t simply go away as a result of a ballot question defeat. Instead, the current exit plan is to hand over existing Housing Authority responsibilities to the city. Having the city in the housing business hasn’t exactly been successful.

Instead of wasting time, effort and money on a ballot question that seems doomed for failure, the Housing Authority’s board of directors should concentrate its efforts on hammering out a plan with city and county officials that will allow the Housing Authority to continue to manage its existing assets while taking strides to pay off the burdensome debt of the loan on the Elk River Village parcel. That likely means continued annual operational funding from the city and county, each of which has contributed about $80,000 a year.

Achieving near-term sustainability then leaves the door open to future organizational growth when and if the economy and community support dictate it.

Comments

sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

$160,000 a year from the taxpayers. Plus a $2 million debt? To solve a problem - affordable housing- that "does not exist".

When the "affordable housing" problem did exist( which I contend it never did), what caused it? "Open space" rules, ranch preservation, growth restrictions, environmental restrictions, tightening building codes, etc.

As each of these strangled the housing market those implementing the utopian ideas ignored the COST of their actions.

Then, when the cows started to come home in the form of higher housing prices how did these geniuses "solve" the problem? By going into the private market and competing with developers, realtors and property owners and managers; as if they had a clue how to play that game.

All the while the federal government was table pounding to lower lending standards so that more people could enter the real estate market. Did anyone think perhaps more people entering the market might send prices to even more "UN-affordable" levels? No; that would be asking too much from these clowns.

And now that prices are down, what does the fed want?? To "RE-INFLATE the housing market"! Thats right! prices got more affordable and so now they want to take some action to send them HIGHER!

You can't take enough LSD to make this kind of stuff up.

How the YVHA, city, county etc can look at us with a straight face and propose more "solutions" is beyond me.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

Considering very few affordable units were built during the boom while longstanding affordable rental homes were remodeled into expensive housing and the reason it is not currently an issue is because so many people, primarily construction workers, have left the valley, there is no reason to believe that the issue of affordable housing or workforce housing has been solved permanently unless we think economic recovery and growth will never return to the valley.

Though, YVHA simply must present a plan for dealing with their debt. It is well past time to give up on Plan A of selling the property at their current price. It appears that their Plan B is to ask for tax revenues so they have the cash to continue with Plan A.

They need to present various options for disposing of the parcel and see if there is an option that works for the pubic. I do not understand why either the City or County would fund YVHA to allow them to continue making interest payments. That is simply wasting yet more good money.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 7 months ago

I'd rather have the voters speak at the ballot box. It appears it is the only way our esteemed so-called leadership will get the message. Stop spending our money on stupid stuff that doesn't solve problems - only costs tax dollars.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 7 months ago

It should be mentioned that the Pilot thinks it is a waste of time to allow voters to have their say at the polls. Just like they didn't want a vote on SB 700. Thankfully, the voters were allowed to speak.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 7 months ago

I was looking forward to the conversation about the ballot, but can't really argue with the editorial. It seems likely to lose. I would have supported them - we asked YVHA to climb the housing hill for us, and that mission that put them in this pickle. The tax is roughly the cost of a night out on the town, and I would pay that for them.

But the need going forward is not something I would pretend to see. Interestingly, Scott Wedell is more bullish about future housing need than I am.

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sodacreekpizza 3 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps the county should buy the Elk River parcel or the note on it with money from reserves. At least that way, the 110K per year interest might eventually offset a loss when the property is sold instead of just vanishing into the lenders pocket. In the mean time, the return would be better than having the reserves sit in CDs.

Lewi, the cost for those of us that pay commercial rents would be quite a bit more than a night on the town. In these times, I would prefer to have the $$ to make my own house payment.

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