Jim DeFrancia, a principal and co-owner of Lowe Enterprises, speaks to a group Friday during the Welcome Home Steamboat housing forum at Citizen’s Hall. DeFrancia was addressing the audience as the noon time speaker and has worked as a developer in other mountain communities.

Photo by John F. Russell

Jim DeFrancia, a principal and co-owner of Lowe Enterprises, speaks to a group Friday during the Welcome Home Steamboat housing forum at Citizen’s Hall. DeFrancia was addressing the audience as the noon time speaker and has worked as a developer in other mountain communities.

Housing forum keynote speaker shares affordable project experience

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— The challenge of providing affordable or workforce housing isn’t unique to resort communities or Colorado, said James DeFrancia, the keynote speaker of Friday’s housing forum at Citizen’s Hall, but a smaller employment and tax base could mean greater struggles for a municipality the size of Steamboat Springs.

DeFrancia is principal and co-owner of Lowe Enterprises, a nationwide development firm, and a trustee of the Urban Land Institute. In addition to being a highly sought after speaker, he soon will be a full-time resident of Steamboat Springs.

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Jim DeFrancia, a principal and co-owner of Lowe Enterprises, speaks to a group Friday during the Welcome Home Steamboat housing forum at Citizen’s Hall.

DeFrancia was a longtime resident of Aspen, which has a much longer history of affordable housing initiatives than Steamboat, and on Friday he shared what he learned from those experiences.

Aspen has faced challenges with affordable housing meant for ownership not being returned to the pool for qualified workers, either because of aging residents not being able to accumulate enough equity to buy somewhere else or because of units being rented contrary to deed restrictions.

For the first issue, the character of the restrictions on the housing is partly to blame, DeFrancia said, while for the second issue, stronger administrative control is needed to enforce restrictions.

Affordable development in Aspen also has suffered from a lack of homebuyer education in the past, he said, leading to homeowners associations that were unprepared for major, capital-intensive projects and have come back to the city for help.

DeFrancia laid out some tenets to keep in mind when planning for affordable housing.

“Have a good grip on how big the problem is,” he said.

Taking into account growth patterns, DeFrancia said, look at how diverse the community and employment bases are.

Ancillary issues like transportation are an important piece of the puzzle, as an expanded system can fix a lot of housing issues, DeFrancia said. Residents also need access to services in addition to transportation between home and work.

“People make choices on housing on more than just price,” DeFrancia said.

DeFrancia said public-private partnerships are “clear and away” the best way to get affordable housing projects done.

Government can provide land, entitlements and infrastructure, he said, and the private sector can provide the product and imagination.

There are lots of tools available for affordable projects, and there’s clearly the potential for a quality product, DeFrancia said.

When people object to the idea of affordable housing near their own property because of preconceived notions, that’s an education issue, DeFrancia said.

“You can produce a lot of good quality, sound-character housing,” he said.

Resorts can be communities or just activity venues, DeFrancia said. People choose to visit communities for more than the recreational activities available, it’s a comprehensive experience.

“Community requires a sense of place,” DeFrancia said. And a sense of place requires a diversity of people and housing types."

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 months, 2 weeks ago

"... stronger administrative control is needed to enforce restrictions."

And why aren't the restriction being strictly enforced? Because the restriction being violated is the occupant going from an RN to a physicians assistant and having a higher income than allowed. So then when Aspen did start the process then the PA says she can't afford to live elsewhere in Aspen and will leave. So then enforcing the restrictions still results in something bad and they back off.

Affordable housing programs that use deed restrictions generally fail because the occupant's decision making starts being determined by the deed restriction. So while people without deed restrictions will move every few years, people with deed restrictions usually lose so much that they will never move.

The fundamental conceptual error in the difference between the theory of deed restrictions and what happens in practice is that the theory assumes that people will make the same decisions whether or not they have deed restrictions. In practice, they are forced to sell at a price that prevents them from buying anything comparable. Thus, the deed restrictions become the most important consideration when making decisions and so nothing happens as planned by the affordable housing organization that issues the deed restrictions.

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John St Pierre 2 months, 2 weeks ago

As a member of Gov Lamm's "Affordable Housing" task force back in the 70's dealing with this and housing issues associated with the now never held Olympics.... nothing has changed actually....
The basic issue is wages verses the market... as long as people are willing to play $1000 a week for rentals... hourly workers cannot afford to compete..... the best resolution is employers being required to provide housing for their employee's....
Currently we all pay thru county services or local government.... providing or subsidizing housing which as you see in the article many communities presently do....

The closest resolution is actually Habitat for Humanity...however without the city waiving all its fee's including water and sewer...these are priced out of the market also.....

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Bill Dalzell 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Scott, while your scenario is certainly possible, I think more of the problems they have experienced with enforcement, relate to owner occupancy. People purchase RO (resident owned) and become seasonal or move after purchase and then rent it, instead of selling. Same in Steamboat. From what I see RO housing restrictions are poorly enforced. Take hilltop homes for instance. I think more than a few are rentals. To me, making a home RO is one if the easier and more beneficial ways of making something more affordable.

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Bill Dalzell 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Another reason Aspen needed more administrative control was for padded budgets. They often establish value on construction costs. People were building RO homes for 800k and saying their budget was 1.2 m so they could make money.

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