Steamboat's Yampa Valley Housing Authority votes to seek tax hike

Housing Authority votes, 6-1, on Thursday to move ahead with ballot question


By the numbers

Annual cost of a 0.55 mill levy

Property Value: $300K

Residential: $13.13

Commercial: $47.85

Property Value: $500K

Residential: $21.89

Commercial: $79.75

Property Value: $1M

Residential: $43.78

Commercial: $159.50

Source: Routt County Assessor's Office

— The Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s board of directors voted, 6-1, on Thursday to go to the voters in fall with a property tax proposal that would generate about $395,000 a year.

Board members say the new tax would provide sufficient funding to support the Housing Authority’s annual operations, expand counseling for families struggling to find affordable housing, bolster a down payment loan fund and set aside funds for future projects. The 0.55-mill tax also would generate $50,000 to support land acquisition and operations for Routt County Habitat for Humanity.

“We’re missing an opportunity to be proactive” in our mission to provide work force housing, board member Catherine Carson said. “In Steamboat Springs, we’ve been reactive. Right now, there is a need in Steamboat Springs for affordable rentals. … Our renters are paying 50 percent of their income on housing.”

The tax would add $21.89 to the annual bill of a homeowner with property valued at $500,000 for tax purposes. The bill would be $79.75 for the owner of a $500,000 commercial property.

The tax would not apply to all county taxpayers — just those whose property lies within the boundary of the district. That district includes the city of Steamboat and the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District minus unincorporated Milner. The tax would sunset after seven years and could not remain in place longer without another vote of approval.

The question of taking the tax question forward passed, 6-1, with board member Kristi Brown dissenting. She promised to support the campaign. Board members who voted in favor were President Rich Lowe, Carson, Trish Sullivan, Scott Myller, John Spezia and Johnny Sawyer.

Board members Nancy Stah­oviak, Ed MacArthur, Bob Kauf­fmann and Jennifer Robbins were not present.

Brown told her fellow board members she was concerned that 2011 is not the right time to go for a property tax increase.

“I think this is a tough sell in the best of times. This is probably the worst time to go for a tax,” Brown said. “I really would like to hear from the city and county whether they feel this is a time to go. The only reason I’m willing to support this is I feel an obligation to try for the sake of the city and county. If the city and county felt it was a silly waste of time and money to try, I’d be very relieved.”

Brown was alluding to the fact that the intergovernmental agreement between the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County that created the Housing Authority anticipated that it would have become fiscally autonomous many years ago.

Lowe said he, too, was mindful of an obligation to local government to at least try to become self-funding.

“The city and county have told us the affordable housing fund will run dry in a year or two, so ‘when are you guys going to find that sustainable funding source?’” Lowe said. “There’s never going to be a good time (to ask for a property tax increase). If we wait, we could end up kicking this can down the road forever. To go back and say, ‘We’re getting negative feedback, so we’re not going to stick our necks out’ — I have a hard time with that.”

Sullivan said she understood Brown and Lowe’s points of view.

“I share Kristi’s concerns, but I think it’s time to ask the voters,” she said.

Brown asked board members what strategy they would pursue if the tax measure were to be rejected by the voters, and she urged that question to be raised in the campaign.

“What if it fails?” Brown asked. “I think this is going to be a referendum on affordable housing, whether it should be or not. If we can’t be what we want to be, should we be anything at all?”

Lowe said in that circumstance, the board could choose to continue on with limited funding or pursue an exit strategy that would turn its assets over to the city.

Spezia said one of the lessons learned by both sides of the Steamboat 700 annexation campaign in March 2010 is that it’s necessary to appeal to voters with rational and emotional arguments.

“I’m pessimistic,” he said. “Facts are great, but this is an emotional gut thing, not just a fact thing. The knee-jerk ‘no to taxes’ vote will be bigger this year.”

Myller, who said that as an architect he sometimes feels like a developer, predicted that the local development community might embrace the tax.

“I think developers would like to have the whole community participate in (a tax for affordable housing), not just the last person in,” Myller said.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or e-mail


Scott Wedel 6 years, 2 months ago

I hear Mubarak and YVHA share the same political consultants and think that stubbornness is the same as popularity.

YVHA, can you please get it into your heads that the issue for the public is not how much the tax is going to cost, but how you are going to use it? You have made dire mistakes in the past and one of the speculative land acquisitions is killing your budget. You are asking the taxpayers quite literally and figuratively to pay for your mistakes.

As long as affordable housing is viewed by it's advocates as the right to have an inexpensive place to live in SB then they will never get broad public support. Too many hardworking, self reliant people have found their affordable housing 15+ miles from SB city limits to accept the rationale that a lucky few deserve taxpayer assistance to live in SB.

Yes, when YVHA was founded that it was thought by 2011, it would have it's our funding source. But it was also expected to have decent cash flow and not be crippled by interest payments on a horrible land deal.

Kill the beast.


addlip2U 6 years, 2 months ago

” Brown said. “I really would like to hear from the city and county whether they feel this is a time to go. The only reason I’m willing to support this is I feel an obligation to try for the sake of the city and county. If the city and county felt it was a silly waste of time and money to try, I’d be very relieved.”

Don't feel obligated, because It IS time to go away! Socialism is dead.


Kevin Nerney 6 years, 2 months ago

When it fails at the polls, does that mean that Donna Howell will get yet another huge buyout?


Steve Lewis 6 years, 2 months ago

You probably understand, we'll pay for this even if the tax fails. The City and County will stand behind any YVHA debt.

I prefer this ballot route which will engage the question, and Steamboat will answer, rather than the alternative default into a government obligation. When they have the ballot language in place, I expect to support it because they were led by the City and County to this mission. Their debt mirrors a mistake many developers made as well.


addlip2U 6 years, 2 months ago

The City and County should put an advisory question on the same ballot asking voters if the housing authority be disbanded. If yes, the use of City and County funds to support the housing authority should be stopped.


Fred Duckels 6 years, 2 months ago

We are constantly deliberating AH in one form or another, and how we can make it work with just one more tweak. From afar it seems that the gladiators believe that they are on a mission from god. Those aspiring to attain public office are automatically all for good things. We constantly seem to be dabbling in capitalism, and the lure of many to oil the gears of this resort machine, have run afoul of market wisdom. I think it wise to disban, sell assets, and hopefully pay off the debts. The taxpayers could pick up the shortfall. The results would be harsh but down the road equilibrium would be attained, and we could all sleep at night without fear of another prodigal son showing up on the doorstep. If we had never entered this arena all this pain could have been avoided. The market system has served us well and who among us can compete?


housepoor 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree with Fred. Sell the mobile home park and hillside apartments and payoff as much of the note as possible. Sometimes its best just to cut your losses and move forward.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 2 months ago

Steve, Sounds like you accept the argument that it is a tax hike to pay off the debt of speculative real estate land deal. A good housing authority is NOT A PUBLICLY OWNED DEVELOPMENT COMPANY!!! It is irrelevant that developers have been hurt by the decline in property values because YVHA SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN IN THE BUSINESS OF BUYING, DEVELOPING AND SELLING PROPERTY!!!

The YVHA is apparently dominated by people that think they are doing public service by being a publicly owned development company and they need to be removed from the YVHA.

The correct role for a housing authority is NOT AS A DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, but more like an investment bank. Their primary role is to help with financing such as distributing grants into down payment assistance or helping people qualify for various programs, maybe even helping a developer with the process of qualifying for USDA loans, and even owning property when it has good cash flow. They can also help a developer by having qualified buyers lined up for a project.

If this YVHA cannot fix itself then the best way forward for affordable housing is to reject the tax.

It actually makes little sense for city to actually disband YVHA because then they have to essentially recreate it as a city agency to manage the existing properties. It'd make more sense to provide survival funding after YVHA cleared out the development mentality and completely reorganized itself. That the long owned Hillside apts have minimal cash flow and have a long waiting list in this soft rental market certainly suggests their rents are below typical affordable rents (HUD formula is around $775 per month for a two bedroom in Routt County).


Steve Lewis 6 years, 2 months ago

The purpose and role handed the YVHA via its IGA with the City and County includes responsibilities contrary to the opinions above. That is why I will vote yes.

This is your opportunity to speak and change the system. I have little confidence of future AH need in the area of ownership - that seems a gone proposition in my opinion - so I agree changes are warranted.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 2 months ago

Steve, It is the signs of a deeply troubled agency when 4 of the 11 board members do not make the meeting where a decision that is critical to the agency's future is made.

They need to fix the YVHA before expecting the public will pass a vote to fund it.


sledneck 6 years, 2 months ago

Why wait for the vote, Steve? If you're so keen on YVHA just write them a chack right now.

And if the City/ County "just funds YVHA anyway" after the taxpayers vote 9-1 against it then those City/ County people need to go the same way YVHA does. Thats what elections are for.


Steve Lewis 6 years, 2 months ago

Sled, Sorry to disappoint, but Lift-Up and Hospice outrank YVHA in my checkbook. You misread my comments if you think I'm YVHA's biggest fan. The reason for my support is above.

Our community handed YVHA their mission, not me. Our community can write them a check, or not.


JLM 6 years, 2 months ago

The tone deafness of asking for a NEW tax in the middle of a recession is extraordinary.

This is so dumb as to justify being neutered.

It is unfortunate that the discourse will not even get to the merits of the issue given the sheer lunacy of even asking.

Timing, in life, is everything.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 2 months ago

JlM, I agree completely with your post, but I would expand upon one phrase: The tone deafness of a troubled agency asking for a NEW tax in the middle of a recession is extraordinary.



Steve Lewis 6 years, 2 months ago

Scott, Yes, in my opinion this is largely about upside down real estate. If instead, this tax were mostly about YVHA going forward, I doubt I could support it. YHVA's position is fruit of a mission this community sent them on. We can now reject or change the mission, but the larger question for me is this - should we reject the liability already incurred.

Yes, 8 or 9 board members of 11 would sound more respectable. Too bad Nancy was in the hospital. I'm told another member was out of the country.

You've written what you think YVHA's role should have been. Here is their own purpose, according to the IGA: "It is the purpose of the Authority to effect the planning, financing, acquisition, construction, reconstruction or repair, maintenance, management, and operation of housing projects or programs pursuant to a multijurisdictional plan in order to provide dwelling accommodations at rental prices or purchase prices within the means of families of low or moderate income living within the jurisdiction of the Authority, and to provide affordable housing projects or programs for employees of employers located within the jurisdiction of the Authority."

They were trying to fulfill THAT purpose. Seems fair to judge them on any failure to meet their purpose. But unfair to judge them on a failure to meet Scott's purpose. With the IGA and some funding from County and City, it stands to reason they felt their purpose had the community's blessing.

I don't know if your description, "publicly owned", is accurate for an "authority". The main point being that the City and County are not the default owners of any YVHA debt. I wouldn't be surprised to see the City and County step in if the ballot fails, but that would be a voluntary step.


Steve Lewis 6 years, 2 months ago

I might agree with JLM about tone deafness. Except YVHA has a conservative leadership.

If the critique rests on timing, not principle, then the very low amount of the tax should also be acknowledged. $22 on a $500,000 home.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 2 months ago

Steve, Well, Stahoviak has attended CC meetings by phone so there is really no excuse that 4 board members could not attend such a critical meeting, or postpone the meeting until more were present.

And given that was their purpose and that they have not learned from their mistakes or the mistakes of other housing authorities then I most certainly not going to vote to give them any more money. YVHA certainly could have, and should have, recognized that acting as a developer had risks and requested to the City and County that they minimize that role.

I think opponents to the proposed tax could simply put YVHA's mission statement in an ad and below add the tagline "No more bailing out failed developers".


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