John Spezia: Who is benefiting?


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.

John Spezia

Steamboat Springs


Scott Wedel 3 years, 9 months ago

The fundamental problem with the pay-in-lieu program is that there is precious little data suggesting that building housing creates an ongoing need for more workers.

It certainly creates far less of a demand for more workers than the airline subsidy program or the proposed Yampa St improvements. Neither of which are asked to provide housing for the claimed added number of jobs.

That illustrates how the affordable housing program is in direct conflict with economic development programs. If we really want affordable housing in the area then SB government should activity discourage increases in tourism and so discontinue the airline subsidy program, discourage Yampa St property owners from making improvements, not allow events like Art in the Park or balloon rodeos and so on.

I'm sure that if the public had reelected the city council that bought the Iron Horse and passed many of these programs then we would be much further along in having more affordable housing. We could have been like Detroit which has an abundance of affordable housing driven by a failing regional economy.


Joe Meglen 3 years, 9 months ago

Providing “affordable” housing requires that wealth be confiscated from some people for the benefit of others. Free people can voluntarily decide to help subsidize other people’s housing, but to be forced to do so by government fiat is theft.


mark hartless 3 years, 9 months ago

Joe M. Is exactly right. And you can't spell confiscation without C-O-N.

"Why has no one stood up for community affordable housing?" They did. It was all the rage, and the community got screwed with things like the Iron Horse.

"Has the problem gone away?" What problem? Housing is expensive in a world class ski town. Deal with it. But don't cast that percieved burden onto your fellow man.

My groceries are expensive-who's "problem" can I make that? My taxes are expensive- who's "problem" is that??? My next automobile is going to be expensive- SO WHAT??

It's called Basic Economics... There is NEVER enough. We live in a world of scarcity and the "problem" has been with us since we exited Eden and it's is not "going away" no matter how much OPM people like John re-distribute.

I wonder how many PERSONAL dollars and hours the writer has given/donated to combat this issue. It's easy to have the state put a gun to OTHER peoples heads. It's not as easy to write the check one's self.


Kevin Chapman 3 years, 9 months ago

Joe it is not theft. Developers have a choice in the matter. Therefore it is indeed, NOT theft.


mark hartless 3 years, 9 months ago

And what happens when the developers excrecise that choice?

Housing prices rise if they stop producing new housing, and home prices rise for all but the annointed few if they build under this rule.

So, a couple buys an "affordable home" in a development. Their neighbor had no subsidies for his home. In fact he had to pay an inflated price to cover the expense of the other couples "affordable" home. However, he happens to own the local grocery store.

That couple will pay the extra housing cost, just not to the bank but to the grocer.

What has this "solved" Kevin? Nothing has changed except a third party beaurecrat gets his ring kissed...

Do you really think the grocery store owner is going to NOT mark up the price of his produce to cover his inflated home price? Or the gas station owner with his gasoline, etc???


Joe Meglen 3 years, 9 months ago


Does the owner of a small business in an inner city have a choice when organized crime demands that the business owner pay for protection? This is extortion, made “legal” in the case of government. No matter which criminal organization confiscates the loot, legal or illegal, it is theft. It is an unlawful attack on property rights.


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.