Candidates square off at forum | SteamboatToday.com

Candidates square off at forum

Avi Salzman

— The first candidate forum of the 2001 election season in Steamboat Springs drove right to the heart of what many feel is the biggest issue facing the city: affordable housing.

Seven candidates showed up for a forum Wednesday at the Village Inn moderated by Steamboat’s Board of Realtors. Discussion quickly shifted to the city’s role in providing and facilitating the construction of affordable housing in Steamboat.

Randall Hannaway, the president of Colorado Group Realty, said he feels the city has been relatively lax in its efforts to provide affordable housing for its residents.

“I don’t feel there has been a lot of action on the part of the city on this,” he said.

In response, one current City Council member said she isn’t sure if it is the city’s role to provide the housing.

“We can’t all say: ‘Here city, fix it,'” Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell said.

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Connell said the city has to look more closely at the idea of affordable living in general, helping to provide opportunities for affordable renting as well as single-family homes. She also said the city could do more in the way of giving incentives to developers to build affordable units by streamlining its development code.

Nancy Kramer, a candidate from District I, agreed with Connell on the limits of local government in combating the affordability problem.

“My concern is that some people look at the city to solve the entire problem,” she said.

Candidate Kathi Meyer, who is the chair of the city Planning Commission, said the city has actually put up roadblocks to affordable housing through a bureaucratic system that leaves developers wondering how they will meet their bottom line.

Matt Jacquart, who is challenging Connell in District III, said he thinks the city needs to start thinking about deed-restricting units for low-income residents so they can get their foot in the door without necessarily making a windfall on the home.

The residents of the deed-restricted units would get to make 3 percent on their houses each year but could not collect the kind of equity available in the unrestricted housing market.

Jacquart also said he believes in a lottery system that would help longtime residents get into housing first.

Steve Ivancie, an at-large candidate, said the community also has to look at the wage side of the affordability equation, noting the importance of keeping essential workers such as teachers and police officers in Steamboat.

“If we keep having people commute from Craig and Hayden, that doesn’t build a strong community,” he said.

Councilman Ken Brenner, who is running in District II, said he thinks new legislation sponsored by State Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, will allow the city to create a joint housing authority with the county that would be able to help pay for and manage affordable-housing units.

Darcy Trask, who is also challenging Connell in District III and is a supporter of the early childhood education tax, said she thinks the city needs to look at the issue of affordable living from more than one angle.

“For much of the work force, it’s transportation, child care and housing,” she said.