Steamboat City Council candidates supply ideas for revenue

City Council hopefuls meet with Yampa Valley Housing Authority

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Election 2011

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The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is trying to figure out how to generate a sustainable source of revenue. It got some ideas Thursday morning from candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council.

Yampa Valley Housing Authority board of directors President Rich Lowe said the candidates were invited to attend the organization’s regular meeting to learn about its mission to provide affordable housing and other services to low- and moderate-income families.

But Lowe said the meeting also was intended to allow an exchange of ideas about the Housing Authority’s financial challenges.

“The problem hasn’t gone away and probably never will because of the gap between the average median income and the average housing prices in a resort community,” he said.

Much of the conversation centered around how the Housing Authority could sell its Elk River Village property near Routt County Road 129 and U.S. Highway 40. The Housing Authority intended to build a 61-unit subdivision, but the project stalled when the recession hit.

Rich Levy, who is opposing City Council member Scott Myller for the District 1 seat, suggested making the property more attractive to buyers by getting city approvals that would include the ability to build commercially on the nearly 11-acre parcel.

Dave Moloney, who is opposing Sonja Macys for the District 3 seat, suggested the property hadn’t hit its market value. Housing Authority Manager Mary Alice Page-Allen said the property is listed at $1.5 million, less than the $2 million the organization owes. She said the Housing Authority has negotiated to continue meeting its obligation on the loan.

John Fielding, one of three candidates for the two-year at-large seat, suggested the Housing Authority default on the loan by asking the bank to take it back and splitting the loss. Lowe said he thought the Housing Authority, as a government entity, couldn’t survive if it defaulted.

Fielding also suggested that the Housing Authority buy and renovate houses in a depressed market. Board member Catherine Carson said that was unlikely without a sustainable funding source.

The Housing Authority in July decided not to ask voters to consider a property tax that would have generated $395,000 annually to supplement its budget.

The Housing Authority received $168,000 from the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County this year and used fees to make up the rest of its $235,000 budget. Page-Allen said it served between 500 and 600 families last year and the average rent cost locally is $600 a month per room.

Without funding for new projects, the Housing Authority in recent years has continued to manage its properties: the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park, Fox Creek Condominiums and Hillside Village Apartments. The organization also offers services such as down payment assistance, credit and financial counseling and training to avoid foreclosure.

Daryl Levin is opposing Fielding and Kevin Kaminski, who didn’t attend the meeting, for the at-large seat. He suggested using revenue from the oil and gas companies that are in the midst of seeking approval to drill in the county.

All the candidates in attendance said they recognized the importance of the Housing Authority’s mission.

Myller, who is seeking to retain his District 1 seat, is a member of the Housing Authority board. At-large City Council member Bart Kounovsky, who is seeking a full-term in District 2 and is running unopposed, didn’t attend the meeting.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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