Workforce housing tax proponents headline election forum
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October 11, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Businessman and former city council member Jon Quinn told an audience of more than 100 people attending an election forum at the Steamboat Grand in Steamboat Springs Wednesday that the community has arrived at a significant juncture in its longstanding quest to create more affordable housing.
"I know the community has long struggled with the right way to provide affordable housing,” Quinn said in support of Referendum 5A. “There have been stumbles along the way, but the success the (Yampa Valley) Housing Authority has had this year has provided a proven model."
The tax question, placed on the November ballot by the board of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, seeks voter approval of a one-mill property tax, estimated to raise $9 million before it sunsets after a decade, to create new housing projects.
The local funds would be counted on to help repeat the housing authority's success this year in completing and leasing the 48 affordable apartments in the Reserves at Steamboat Springs off Elk River Road on Steamboat's west side. The project succeeded because the housing authority owned the site and was awarded federal tax credits from the Colorado Housing Finance Authority, which were sold and the proceeds invested in The Reserves with a private sector developer.
Now, the housing authority wants to do more. If voters approve 5A, YVHA hopes to create 350 seasonal housing beds, 350 additional low-income rental units and 150 permanently affordable homes in the next 10 years.
YVHA Board President Roger Ashton told those at the forum that 5A was crafted to spread the burden for providing more workforce housing across the Steamboat community.
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"What I think about 5A," Ashton said, "is the affordable housing issue in Steamboat is not something that happened overnight. There have been numerous studies, and they sit on shelves. We created a community steering committee, we had input from several hundred people, and what we came up with is, in my mind, a very fair and very balanced approach. It doesn’t put the onus an any one segment of the community."
The estimated cost to the taxpayers if 5A passes is $36 of additional property tax annually per $500,000 of assessed residential valuation. And for commercial properties with a valuation of $500,000, the tax is estimated to be $145 per year.
City Council incumbent Kathi Meyer also serves on the housing authority board and cautioned the audience at the forum not to think the funding generated from 5A would fully meet the housing need here.
"We hope to meet 30 to 50 percent of the needs over the next 10 years, but we are also looking to the private sector to either partner with us or build on their own,” Meyer said. "I think 5A, when it passes, will change people’s lives. When we took reservations for The Reserves, we had people lining up at three in the morning – in January. I think Steamboat is a very generous community. This is a community problem, and it needs a community solution."
Wednesday night's election forum was sponsored by the Routt County Democrats, Routt County Republicans, Steamboat Today and the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors. Steamboat Today Editor Lisa Schlichtman served as moderater.
The event included Steamboat Springs School Board candidates Mayling Simpson and Katy Lee, incumbent city council candidate Scott Ford and his challenger Peter Arnold as well as unchallenged council candidates Sonja Macys, Lisel Petis and Meyer, plus representatives of Colorado Mountain College and more.
Steamboat Springs School Board President Joey Andrew spoke passionately about Referendum 3C, which asks voters to approve a new ongoing mill levy devoted exclusively to keeping up the district’s facilities for the future.
"The amount of money the district needs right now is not going to be something we can raise from donations," Andrew said. "These are your assets. These are your properties. We're the stewards of it. Let's protect your property, your investment, which is over $100 million in value."
Andrew also spoke about Referendum 3D, which seeks voter approval for a $12.9 million bond issue to tackle three major capital projects: replacing roofs on five district buildings, including three schools; refurbishing the running track, all season turf field and bleachers at Gardner Field; and improving the heating and cooling systems at Steamboat Springs Middle School.
Watch for additional reporting on the Oct. 11 election forum in Steamboat Today.