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All-day forum in Steamboat Springs seeks housing solutions for locals

Krista Miller, human resources director for the town of Vail, speaks to a group Friday during the Welcome Home Steamboat housing forum at Citizen’s Hall. Miller was addressing the audience as part of a panel discussing how to find housing solutions for locals.





Krista Miller, human resources director for the town of Vail, speaks to a group Friday during the Welcome Home Steamboat housing forum at Citizen's Hall. Miller was addressing the audience as part of a panel discussing how to find housing solutions for locals.
John F. Russell

— After an all-day community forum on the topic of housing, Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs had the unenviable job of trying to summarize seven hours of discussion and 20 pages of his own notes.

The forum invited experts in all segments of housing to come together Friday in Citizen's Hall to come up with solutions for locals. There were developers who've worked here and those who've built affordable projects elsewhere. There were real estate agents, lending professionals, heads of housing authorities, government officials and leaders of private companies on panels and in attendance. Members of the public at-large also were in the audience and able to participate during the day.

The day's conversation was informative while also at times historical and soul-searching as Steamboat Springs residents who've been hearing about and wrestling with the issue of affordable housing for a very long time sought to define what would be different this time.

The city of Steamboat Springs currently is halfway through a two-year suspension of its community housing regulations, which creates an actual timer on the discussion of the vision for housing.

Despite the wide range of topics and discussion covered during the forum, there were some key takeaways.

"You're here because you are concerned about preserving community character," said David O’Neil, CEO and founder of Brynn Grey Partners, a Boulder real estate development and investment firm.

Creating community-wide goals emerged during the day as an important step along with how to measure progress toward those goals.

The public sector should be in the ends business (defining and measuring larger goals), O'Neil said, while the private sector is in the means business, left with flexibility to realize the community's goals.

Speakers presented information about tools for affordable housing, multiple successful developments elsewhere, employer assisted housing strategies and more.

Steamboat residents at the forum pointed out that the region has a number of plans and vision documents that have yet to be realized.

Diane Johnson, general manager of Yampa Valley Electric Company, and Chris Tamucci, director of operations at Big Agnes, spoke about how housing presents a challenge in recruiting and retaining talent. However, as real estate agent Penny Fletcher pointed out, there seems to be some apathy in the community about deeming affordable housing a problem or determining how big of a problem it presents.

The idea of a survey or study to gauge the size of the affordability gap and its consequences was met with groans by members of the audience, but panelists and some of those in attendance agreed that strong leadership would be paramount to educating the community about the issue, getting feedback and finding housing solutions for locals.

"We will be back in touch as soon as possible," Gibbs said at the end of the day. "We will not let this rest."

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