The Steamboat Springs City Council has decided to place a one-year moratorium on collecting funds for affordable housing even though it still has to go through the motions of a first and second reading on the ordinance. These funds are from the pay-in-lieu option, which requires developers of large projects to supply a small percentage of the housing demand their development creates for affordable housing. This is “keep up,” which means when you create a demand for housing, you have to meet a small (a very small one in Steamboat) percentage of that demand. This is not “catch up,” which would be meeting all the housing needs that past development and community decisions created.
So who is benefiting? The present developers who have complained about the burden of carrying a little of the responsibility for the demand they create for affordable housing will benefit, and the developers waiting for the moratorium to start before they apply for a project permit so they can be grandfathered in will benefit.
It appears the community and the workforce are not going to benefit from this decision.
The majority of these folks are paying more than 30 percent of their income for their mortgage or rent. When they pay that much for housing, they have to cut back on food, utilities, health care, community involvement, transportation and child welfare costs as well as losing some of their sanity to make ends meet.
The reasoning behind the rush for a moratorium is the City Council has been told that we don’t have the data and analysis to continue the affordable housing program, but they don’t have the data and analysis to end it, either.
So why is the City Council putting the moratorium in place? Or more to the point, who does this moratorium benefit? Certainly not the people who need affordable housing, nor our local workforce that is the economic backbone of our community and certainly not the local businesses who struggle to hire, train, retrain and still have a difficult time keeping professional and trained employees for the lack of affordable housing. Instead of a moratorium, let’s put the pay-in-lieu funds in escrow this next year so we haven’t lost any vital funds while we obtain the data and analysis we need to make a decision that benefits all of the community.
And, yes, we have heard some community members say these folks who cannot find affordable housing are just lazy. All it takes is hard work, but let me remind them that a house in 1980 that cost $70,000 now sells for more than $370,000, if one could afford it for that price at local wages. Wages have been relatively flat during that time and a speculative real estate market has grown house prices exponentially.
Why has no one stood up for community affordable housing? Has the problem gone away? Do we care anymore? Have we given up on the responsiveness of our elected officials? Do they listen to a different drummer? The Aug. 16 City Council meeting is the first reading of the ordinance that hands out a free pass to ignore affordable housing needs in our community.