Carpenters work on the foundation of the Emerald Heights townhomes on Monday. The housing project is likely to become one of the first that will not have to abide by the seven-year-old community housing rules that have been criticized by developers and city council members.

Photo by Scott Franz

Carpenters work on the foundation of the Emerald Heights townhomes on Monday. The housing project is likely to become one of the first that will not have to abide by the seven-year-old community housing rules that have been criticized by developers and city council members.

Much to be determined after suspension of Steamboat's affordable housing ordinance

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— In the short-term, the Steamboat Springs City Council's proposed suspension of the city's community housing rules will please many residential developers who no longer will have to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars toward a community housing fund.

Developer Jon Peddie, who under the current ordinance was facing a $166,000 fee on his housing project off Hilltop Parkway, said the suspension will level the playing field.

"That's all money that we can turn around and sell product slightly cheaper," he said. "To not have that burden is absolutely going to give us a chance to be more competitive."

In the long term, it will be up to the city, the council and the community to decide during the next year how affordable units should be financially supported here in the future.

Some want developers to continue to support the housing financially.

Others think it's been an unfair burden.

So far, a new tax has been a commonly mentioned replacement to the seven-year-old affordable housing rules in the city that require developers to build a certain number of units or pay a fee.

The rules were drafted in 2006 at a time when several expensive housing developments were going up and the city wanted to ensure the developers were helping to satisfy the new housing demand they were creating.

But today, there is enough angst among developers who think the rules and fees associated with them are a burden that the City Council is moving forward to suspend them while city staff works on a revision or replacement.

“The reason this got brought up in the first place wasn't anything to do with being for or against community housing,” Peddie said. “It was just the whole fairness issue. If we really as a community feel we want to support community housing, it should be a grass-roots, community-based effort to figure out how to fund it and to fairly spread the cost.”

Jason Peasley, the executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, said last week that while the proposed suspension wasn't the preferred course of action for his organization, he would be pleased if council's action led to the community embracing a new tax.

He said a tax would be a more reliable source of revenue than the current rules that have resulted in the payment of more fees to the community housing fund than the construction of affordable, deed-restricted units.

History, however, shows a tax won't be easy to propose or pass.

The Housing Authority in 2011 had planned to go to voters seeking a property tax to generate $395,000 for their organization, but it abandoned the idea in part because board members didn't think the community support was there.

With or without a new tax proposal, the city's planning staff is continuing their efforts to re-examine the current affordable housing rules.

Under review

City planner Rebecca Bessey said the work starts this summer with a review of the local housing market.

“The goal of this is to take a look at what's out there and what our needs are,” she said. “It's a lot of data collection.”

The council last month told the city it could spend $5,000 on the study that council members said will help determine how much of a demand there is for affordable housing.

Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said it would help prepare for a larger examination of the community housing plan.

Meanwhile, Bessey said there are about nine development projects in the pipeline that potentially could be affected by the council's proposed suspension, which cannot take effect until a second reading of an ordinance next month.

She said one project is unique in that the developers already have paid the entirety of their fee toward the community housing fund before all of the project was completed.

“It's going to be up to the council to decide how they want the suspension to apply to these projects,” she said.

Still an issue

Support for the current affordable housing rules has wavered as the economy slumped and new council members were sworn in.

In 2009, Meg Bentley was a member of the City Council that first was approached by developers who wanted to amend or do away with the rules.

They complained they were finding it hard or impossible to sell the affordable units they were creating.

Bentley didn't support a suspension or repeal then, calling the move “reactionary” and saying a lack of affordable housing was hampering business development.

On Monday, she said the changing economy has warranted revisions to the rules, and she hopes the current council will commit to finding a better solution.

“I don't think it's good for the community for it to be just thrown out and to say, 'Well, that didn't work,'"she said, adding that she still thinks developers should contribute financially toward the creation of affordable units. “I still think it's a huge issue.”

She said she worries that a lack of affordable housing here continues to make it difficult for an entire segment of the population (snow plowers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) to afford to live in the city.

The current council is likely to continue its discussions on affordable housing when it considers the first reading of the suspension of the current rules July 16.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

John Fielding 9 months, 2 weeks ago

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It seems like the perfect storm of circumstances to prompt a complete overhaul of this program in all its aspects. Any funding should certainly be in the form of a voter approved tax. The fee is an end run around getting such approval, and falls heavily on the purchasers of the new units. Anyone who thinks the developers pay the fee by reducing their earnings is misinformed.

It may well be that an aspect of the fee structure was to discourage development, there has certainly been plenty of anti-development sentiment in this community, especially during the boom years. An in an ironic twist, the addition of the fee to the cost of the units drove up the price of housing, contributing to the problem it was designed to address.

The logical path to making affordable housing available is to help reduce the costs of developing it. There are numerous other city policies that add cost, among which are the utility rate structure, the prohibition on identical units and other money saving design strategies, and the exclusion of mobile home parks to name a few.

My suggestion is that we seek input from those who produce lower cost housing, from developers of new subdivisions to those who buy fixed-uppers, asking how city policies can be revised to allow those projects to be more economically feasible.

.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Affordable housing in this area needs a serious discussion based upon economic analysis.

The history has been to look for sources of revenues to fund ineffective programs rife with favoritism.

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mark hartless 9 months, 2 weeks ago

John Fielding just about nailed it.

The program drove housing costs UP, not down.

Even a cursory look at what runs housing costs skyward puts much of the problem squarely in the lap of our local governments.

"Open Space" and "Conservation Easements" make land more expensive.

Building permits are ridiculously expensive, and building codes are way more stringent than necessary resulting in waste of material, labor and time.

And every ounce of that unnecessary material is taxed by guess who...? The same municipalities that force the regulations on us to begin with.

Water and sewer tap fees are also ridiculously expensive.

And there is little doubt that this was likely structured to discourage development.

Perhaps the discussion Scott W. suggests should start with someone answering one simple question: Who in their right mind thinks that it is encumbant upon me, or society as a whole to insure that "snow plowers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc" get to live in a world-class ski town with no difficulty? Only in the Entitled States of America would a significant portion of the population expect any such thing.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

First question should be: What is the intended economic benefit of an affordable housing program?

Second question should be: How does the affordable housing plan meet that objective?

Third question should be: How much does the affordable housing plan cost and it is cost effective means of meeting answer #1.

Local affordable housing is typically justified as being needed for workforce housing so the local businesses can find workers. For various political reasons, all of the workers that live outside SB city limits are considered aberrations and so workforce housing must occur within city limits. As for the effectiveness, you know it is bad when they cite the YVHA down payment program without mentioning YVHA itself. YVHA has wasted so much resources that it has become that which must not be named.

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mark hartless 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The only question that need be asked is:

"Is there anything... I mean ANYTHING that, in the face of INCONTROVERTIBLE evidence, and after failure piled on top of miserable failure and good maney thrown after bad, which will ever, EVER make a true leftist feel like a total SUCKER?"

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

A true leftist will always believe it can be done better next time. So the answer to your question is "no".

Just like a true right winger will never believe any scientific result that conflicts with personal beliefs.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 9 months, 2 weeks ago

But a true leftist will never address Fast and Furious on this blog - eh Scott. Maybe that can be done "better" next time

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

What about that particular dumb idea that was poorly executed so interests you?

I've never understood why the gun rights people think FnF should be viewed as some bigger scandal. The underlying facts that the USA is such an easy place to acquire arms to then be smuggled into other countries shows that we have some corrupt gun dealers and possibly corrupt manufacturers supplying those dealers that the manufacturer knows are selling too much to be legit.

The topic of how Mexican gangs are so heavily armed by the flow of weapons from the US does not resonate as a Second Amendment right enjoying public support.

Sure, the ATF in a stupid attempt at a tracking operation added slightly to the supply of guns in Mexico, but it didn't suddenly allow bad guys to get weapons for the first time.

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mark hartless 9 months, 2 weeks ago

"... the ATF added slightly to the supply of guns in Mexico..."

Wow Scott. I have known for some time that you are a big apologist and skilled excuse-maker, but that's ridiculous although spoken like a true leftist.

You see, if I or Dan or anyone else on the libertarian side of such an issue had "added slightly to the supply of guns" without the proper paperwork we'd be guaranteed a trip to the klink for a min. 10 years because it's ILLEGAL, Scott . I think perhaps what Dan wants to know is why "progressives" like yourself see no fault in the Justice Depoartment of the USA breaking gun laws while you defend gun control measures for people like Dan and me???!

I love the way "progressives dismiss things with such colorful BS. Can I try?

I would be willing to bet that if the Aurora theatre shooter was a democrat Scott would say he didn't commit mass murder, instead he merely "added to the supply of souls in heaven (or hell).

I imagine that if a bank robber was a popular "progressive" Scot would deny that he robbed the bank, instead he would describe it as "making room in the vault for more deposits" right Scott??

And of course using Scott's clever "wordsmithing" skills one would have to say the NSA doesn't illegally spy on American citizens, rather it only "retains all electronic communications for our "protection". (although nobody can seem to secure the border "for our protection"...)

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

FnF was intended as a sting operation. Sting operations will buy stolen goods which slightly increase the motivation to steal since it can now be sold slightly easier. Sting drug operations will buy and sell a relatively small amount of drugs in order to be able to make arrests that are hoped to have a far bigger impact.

And the police when doing sting operations are violating the law, but they are not arrested or prosecuted because it is a planned operation.

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mark hartless 9 months, 2 weeks ago

So if I "plan" a DUI does that mean I'm not "driving drunk" rather I'm "on patrol" as the local sheriff" ??

As long as criminal acts are "planned" or "sanctioned" by YOUR party they are excuseable, deniable, dismissable???

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Dan Kuechenmeister 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I find it sad that those (like Scott) who favor more restrictive gun control laws - I am not pontificating as to whether we should have more restrictive laws as that is not where i am going with Fast and Furious (not the movie for those on the left trying to ignore Fast and Furious) - don't see the irony and hypocrisy that an administration that wants to restrict law abiding citizens choices on weapons would be willing to give the bad guys guns. Also, wouldn't it be interesting to see how far up the current administration food chain the idea behind Fast and Furious went. I am thinking that this was not the result of some low rung ATF agent. I am thinking Eric Holder or higher but as this is the most transparent administration ever - not my words but Obama's - it appears we will never know

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

It should not surprising that people opposed to guns would want to run a sting operation on gun sales. The ATF probably expected to get evidence on a few gun dealers and maybe even a manufacturer. If they had gotten those busts then it would have argued for more controls on sales which is what they want.

People in favor of something don't run sting operations against that activity.

You guys talk like it was Iran Contra where arms were intentionally given to our enemies in order to raise funds for funding Contras. FnF was supposed to be a sting operation that would have ultimately reduced the number of guns going to Mexican gang.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, YVHA still has yet to learn anything. Today is their meeting and their website doesn't mention there is a meeting today or have an agenda available.

If there was ever a government authority determined to gain public mistrust then this is it.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

And in their continuing quest to earn the public's mistrust, today's meeting was not held at the noticed location.

Apparently, they were told yesterday afternoon that their normal location of the Commissioner's meeting room was needed by others. So they found another place to hold their meeting, but since it was not at the noticed location then I don't see how it was a legal meeting under Colorado's laws.

Nor was there any attempt to at least satisfy the intent of the notice requirement by placing prominent signs at the Commission Meeting Room stating where to find the YVHA meeting. Nope, I was at the noticed location wondering what was going on until someone said that the YVHA meeting was moved to the Trout Creek Meeting Room in the other building. Took a few minutes to find that which had no signs or other hints that this was the new location for the YVHA meeting.

And all the time I spent trying to find the meeting caused me to most almost all of George's public comments on how they've damaged his reputation.

And YVHA is they sort of group that is the definition of dysfunctional. Since their business is real estate then just about every meeting can legally have executive sessions. So when do they go into executive session? After all of the public business is conducted so any public audience can attend? Of course not, they enter executive session just about as early as possible so the public audience must leave. And then at some later time whenever the executive session is over, then they conduct what must be held in open session. So any public audience is supposed to leave and wait away from the meeting room until some unspecified time in the future in order to be let back in.

The nearly sadistic aspect of the YVHA board is that I was asked if I was there for the whole meeting or just public comment. I said the meeting. So the next thing they do is go into executive session and force me to leave!

And they still don't have agenda or meeting minutes for the last 3 years posted on their website.

City and County should expect a significantly higher level of transparency from any organization they fund.

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mark hartless 9 months, 1 week ago

Which returns me to my previous question: "Is there anything which, in the face of incontrivertible evidence, will ever make a true leftist feel like a SUCKER??

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