Our view: Vote ‘yea’ on 5A | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Vote ‘yea’ on 5A

Steamboat Springs has been debating the issue of affordable housing for years now, and this fall, citizens have the opportunity to take some action when they consider Referendum 5A, which appears on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The ballot measure, proposed by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, asks local voters to approve a one-mill property tax levy to create a dedicated funding source for the development of low-income, seasonal and permanently affordable housing, and it's a solution the Steamboat Pilot & Today is squarely behind.

We watched as YVHA successfully completed The Reserves at Steamboat this year at the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Elk River Road. The low-income housing project is now fully occupied and is home to 53 school-aged children whose parents most likely work in Steamboat and couldn't afford to live here if the Reserves didn't exist.

The Reserves is also a prime example of a very positive private-public partnership, in which a $400,000 investment from the community was leveraged to build a $13 million housing project, and it's that model that YVHA hopes to replicate several times over if 5A passes.

The tax revenue generated by the mill levy would be used toward land acquisition, planning, design, financing, construction and administration costs to entice private developers to build four or five housing developments in the Steamboat Springs area. These projects would focus on a mix of low-income and year-round seasonal rental units as well as permanently affordable rental and for-sale entry-level housing.

The cost to local residents would be modest – approximately $36 per year for owners of residential homes assessed at $500,000 and about $145 for commercial property owners whose property has the same valuation.

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It also should be noted YVHA is not asking for this tax to be collected in perpetuity. Instead, the tax sunsets in 10 years, which is another facet of the proposal we support.

For those who are asking why they should spend their hard-earned money to help someone else secure housing, we'd answer it's about preserving the character of Steamboat Springs as we know it.

We think it's important that Steamboat remain a place where the people who work here can afford to live here, and as the Great Recession recedes and housing prices are back on the rise, that way of life is becoming more and more precarious. As housing costs reach a tipping point, we think this modest tax, which 5A would levy, could help reverse this trend or at least mitigate it.

The action by the housing authority board to place a tax issue to support affordable housing on the Nov. 7 ballot comes on the heels of an important Housing Steering Committee report, which represented the hard work of over 100 volunteers who spent almost a year studying Routt County's housing situation. The work of the committee was necessary and important, and it revealed that the county lost 12.5 percent of its middle-class households between 2010 and 2014 as more and more local wage earners were priced out of the market.

We applaud the YVHA board for taking action on this report by placing 5A on the ballot and for doing everything in its power to ensure the findings don't just gather dust on a shelf in some government office.

After 15 years of waiting for the private sector to build affordable housing on its own, we realize that's not going to happen without a little incentive. So it's time to stop talking about affordable housing and actually do something, and we think that involves voting "yes" on Referendum 5A.

At issue: The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is asking voters to approve a one-mill property levy to provide a dedicated funding source to spur development of low-income, affordable housing projects.

Our view: It’s time to take action, and we encourage voters to vote ‘yes’ on Referendum 5A.

Editorial Board
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Tom Ross, reporter
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.