Housing costs outpace wage increases | SteamboatToday.com

Housing costs outpace wage increases

Yampa Valley Housing Authority reviews needs assessment

Brandon Gee

— Housing cost increases in Oak Creek mostly outpaced those in the rest of Routt County during the past decade, according to a housing needs assessment presented to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority on Thursday.

The median price for a single-family home in Oak Creek increased from $91,213 in 1998 to $345,000 in 2008, a 278 percent jump, the assessment shows. Median single-family home prices in Steamboat Springs increased 179 percent in the same time period, from $269,500 to $753,000.

The median price for condominiums in Oak Creek jumped 235 percent from 1998 to 2008, from $55,000 to $184,000. In Steamboat, median condominium prices increased 143 percent, from $143,900 to $350,000.

In the category of townhomes, Hayden’s 346 percent increase from 1998 to 2008 outpaced other Routt County municipalities and unincorporated areas. The median price for a townhome in Hayden increased from $32,500 to $145,000. In Steamboat, the median price for a townhome was $218,500 in 1998 and $586,500 in 2008, a 168 percent increase.

In Routt County overall, median sales prices increased 75 percent from 2000 to 2008, while incomes increased only 17 percent.

YVHA board member Catherine Carson said the assessment shows that the free market isn’t keeping up with the Yampa Valley’s housing needs.

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“I think the key thing is the statistics are showing how much more our housing prices are increasing than our wages,” she said.

The Routt County Housing Needs Assessment was paid for with a $52,400 grant from the Colorado Division of Housing and conducted by BBC Research & Consulting of Denver. YVHA asset/program manager Mary Alice Page-Allen said it will be used to guide the Housing Authority’s strategic plan and the makeup of future housing projects.

“I wouldn’t say there’s anything really startling here. There’s a lot of affirmation of things we thought we knew. And now we have data to support it,” Page-Allen said. “It feeds right into our short- and long-term plans.”

Last year, the Yampa Valley Housing Authority also commissioned a $150,000 housing demand analysis that was paid for by the city, the county, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, major developers and major employers.

YVHA board member and Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the two studies differ because the market demand analysis focused primarily on Steamboat Springs and did not include as much information about low-income workers as the needs analysis. Page-Allen said the market demand analysis dealt with housing preferences while the latest study deals with needs based on data.

“My hope has always been that we could take the market demand analysis and needs assessment and generate the data internally every year,” said Stahoviak, who noted that much of the assessment’s data was collected before major shifts in the local housing market. “I think this is the type of information that’s pretty dynamic and changes.”

Housing Authority President Ed MacArthur said his biggest concern with the study was the age of its data.

“I think it’s still going to be a very useful tool,” MacArthur said. “We’ll just have to figure out how to adjust it to today’s times.”

YVHA is not actively engaged in any development efforts. As it looks toward future projects, however, MacArthur said the two studies show the Yampa Valley’s greatest housing needs are small single-family homes and affordable rental housing.

The assessment’s overall findings concluded that the full effect of the national housing crisis is still unknown in Routt County and that because of employment uncertainties, workers may be more comfortable renting in the near term.

The assessment recommended that measures to address work force housing needs should be phased in slowly to gauge workers’ preferences for certain products such as deed-restricted units. The assessment also said affordable housing efforts should be concentrated in Steamboat Springs, where most of the county’s employment is located and higher densities can be achieved.

By the numbers

Routt County housing market and wages, 2000 to 2008

– Increase in incomes: 17 percent

– Increase in median home sales price: 75 percent

– Increase in rental costs: 5 percent