Richard Levy: Providing homes
April 11, 2006
In November 1997, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation was created. In November 2003, this organization evolved into the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.
On Feb. 21, the City Council passed Steamboat Springs’ first Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. This rule requires all new residential developments to provide affordable housing units equivalent to 15 percent of the market rate units.
Late in 2005, the City Council commissioned a study that links new construction (commercial and residential) with the number of new jobs required to serve these structures. The thought is that new development should have to provide housing for at least some of the new jobs created.
On March 30, Routt County commissioners and planning commissions had a work session to discuss the need and desire for a countywide inclusionary zoning ordinance.
Affordable housing has been discussed in our community for more than 10 years; it is just now seeing real action. The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley and other organizations have worked to create public awareness. There is high public support for these measures, and elected officials are acting accordingly. There are still some that are not on the bandwagon. The development community’s hesitancy is understandable. These measures probably will cost them more money (which I assume will be passed on to the consumer). But there is also resistance from some longtime residents. These people managed to scrimp and save to purchase their homes. They perceive these affordable housing measures as handouts to a newer generation that is not willing to do the same hard work to attain housing.
What’s so different?
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According to the 2003 Routt County housing needs assessment, “between 1990 and 2000, wages and personal income did not keep pace with owner housing costs in Routt County, resulting in less affordable owner housing for the area work force. Median owner costs increased by 67 percent during this period, whereas the average wage increased 48 percent.”
Housing prices continue to rise at a rate of about 11 percent a year. Has anyone working here seen those kinds of raises in wages or salaries? Construction costs and the housing market, fueled by retiring affluent baby boomers, continue to put upward pressure on our house prices with no end in sight. We have to do something or we will lose the vibrant sense of community that makes Steamboat the place we all love.
Inclusionary zoning is not the magic bullet that will solve all our housing problems, and it is not even a perfect tool. However, it will solve some of your problems. We also will need to look for and develop a host of other tools to meet our needs. The only thing that is certain is that the “market” is not going to take care of the problem on its own.