Steamboat 700 pledges dollars to identify workforce, demand | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat 700 pledges dollars to identify workforce, demand

Brandon Gee

— The Steamboat 700 development team hopes to put some faces to the numbers that are thrown around in discussions about affordable housing.

The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which provides community development guidelines for land including the Steamboat 700 parcel, requires developers to provide 20 percent of their homes as affordable housing to people who make an average of 80 percent of the area median income, or AMI. Steamboat 700 proposes to target an average of 120 percent of AMI. The discrepancy has created conflict between developers and the city. It also has many wondering – whether the target is 80 percent or 120 percent – who the housing will actually serve.

“The housing plan should focus on housing people, not statistics,” Peter Smirniotopoulos, Steamboat 700’s housing consultant, said at the project’s pre-application review before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday. “The purpose, as we understand it, is to provide housing for the workforce.”

Steamboat 700 principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy said his emphasis on a higher income bracket is based on research of the community. The research suggests the workforce that Steamboat officials are interested in retaining earns more than 80 percent of AMI.

“We believe the community housing plan should consider housing needs beyond 80 percent of AMI,” Smirniotopoulos said.

To help personalize the statistics, Peter Patten, a land-use consultant employed by Mulcahy, said Steamboat 700 will fund one-third of the cost for a “comprehensive demand analysis to identify the breadth and depth of the community’s need for workforce housing.” The city and Yampa Valley Housing Authority would partner in the study.

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During public comment at Thursday’s meeting, Noreen Moore said the city’s policies might be too focused on service industry employees, rather than young professionals who might make as much as six figures but still can’t afford to live in Steamboat Springs. She said companies like TIC are very important to Steamboat and that rapidly rising home prices are “a real threat to economic diversity.”

“I’m asking you to help the industry sector we don’t see but that is very important to us,” said Moore, business resource director for the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative.

Housing considerations have dominated discussions about Steamboat 700. Planning Services Manager John Eastman said that is because affordable housing is the most pressing community need that needs to be addressed in west Steamboat development, and as a condition of the annexation requested by Steamboat 700 developers.

“We want a real community,” Eastman said. “The fundamental community contract was that we get this part right.”