Our view: Creating housing to conserve community
June 10, 2017
At issue: The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is exploring placing a mill levy on the ballot to create more community housing
Our view: $36 dollars per year is a modest price to pay to protect Steamboat’s community character
The news that the board of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority will explore taxpayers' enthusiasm this summer for approving a mill levy to build on the newfound momentum on the community housing front is one of the most encouraging signs we've seen in 15 years that we are beginning a new era in Steamboat Springs' and Routt County's quest to ensure the people who live and work here have decent housing at a decent price.
The tentative proposal is to seek voters' approval for one mill of property tax for 10 years, to see how far the authority can go with its successful business model of forging public-private partnerships facilitated by securing federal income tax credits to use as a tool to bring enough equity to housing projects to entice private developers to engage the authority in a development partnership.
Tentatively, the new measure might result in a property tax increase of $36 on $500,000 of residential property valuation.
That's essentially what the Housing Authority was able to do with its brand new, 48-unit, fully-leased Reserves at Steamboat apartment building on Elk River Road, where hard-working, longstanding local families are moving into secure housing, many for the first time.
It would be premature of us to endorse the proposed tax — there's much to learn about how the success of The Reserves can be replicated in serial fashion. We also want to hear more about the possibilities for the authority to tie up undeveloped land in appropriate zone districts. We know the intent is to do so without risking millions of dollars of funding before development deals are inked and shovel ready.
However, we feel good enough about the emerging plan to urge voters in the Housing Authorities taxing district (the city and properties within the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District, comprising 428 acres) to take every opportunity to learn more about the proposal.
In the last quarter of a century, some of the resistance to new property taxes here can be blamed on the much reviled Gallagher Amendment, a 1982 amendment to Colorado's state constitution which required that 45 percent of the total amount of state property tax collected come from residential property and 55 percent from commercial property. Over time, as the residential sector has grown faster than the commercial sector, that split has become increasingly onerous on commercial property owners, who become increasingly reluctant to embrace new property taxes.
With that in mind, we took encouragement from a report that the board of the Steamboat Springs Chamber of Commerce was briefed on the basics of the tentative tax proposal, and there was strong support. We interpret that as a very positive sign that employers in the region could be ready to support a tax for housing
What's really at risk here, if we fail to stimulate the creation of more workforce housing, is the very makeup of our community. If we cannot provide appropriate housing, our businesses will be understaffed, and our own children will never be able to come back to Routt County to start their own families.
When that happens, the culture that makes this one of the most appealing mountain towns in North America will be degraded.
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