Saturday, January 5, 2008

City of Streamboat Hires Housing Expert

City hires housing expert
Former Planning Commissioner Nancy Engelken settles in
By Brandon Gee
Saturday, January 5, 2008

Steamboat Springs — Amid many organizational changes for the city of Steamboat Springs, Nancy Engelken has been hired to fill the newly created position of community housing coordinator and will manage the city’s affordable housing efforts.
Some have expressed concerns that the position would compete with or duplicate the efforts of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, a fear city officials dismissed Friday.
Engelken, the former chairwoman of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, is a Wisconsin native who moved to Steamboat four years ago. She started Wednesday and reports to Tom Leeson, whose official title has changed from planning director to planning and community development director. City Clerk Julie Jordan said Leeson’s title reflects the fact that affordable housing and historic preservation have joined planning as focuses of his department.
“Tom’s role has expanded,” Jordan said.
In other organizational maneuvers, intergovernmental services has moved under the city’s finance department, human resources has been moved directly under the city manager’s office and transportation has moved under public works. The Steamboat Springs City Council will look at the restructuring in the form of an ordinance Tuesday, Jordan said.
Leeson said Engelken’s hiring would allow the city to better monitor the effectiveness of affordable housing legislation — in the form of inclusionary zoning and linkage — passed last year. Engelken will collect data, conduct surveys “and make sure we’re really hitting our goals,” Leeson said.
“I think it will improve the efficiency,” Leeson said. “I think it will help us to make sure our efforts are coordinated across the board.”
At a Dec. 1 Steamboat Springs City Council retreat, Councilman Scott Myller expressed concerns that the city was undermining the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.
“I don’t think I’d hire an affordable housing coordinator,” Myller said at the retreat.
City Manager Alan Lanning said the position was necessary to protect the city’s own interests. On Friday, Myller said he still was concerned but willing to see how the new position plays out.
“It seemed really likely that the city was moving toward creating its own housing authority and leaving the Yampa Valley Housing Authority in the dust,” Myller said. “That’s something I was very much against and still am. I’m not suggesting we need to move toward eliminating that position, but I’ll see how that goes.”
In defending the position, Leeson echoed the explanation given by Lanning at the retreat.
“It’s important to make sure the regulations we have are being carried through,” Leeson said. “We certainly are not going to try to duplicate or compete with anything they’re doing. … We do have an obligation to monitor our own regulations.”
Yampa Valley Housing Authority Executive Director Donna Howell said she hopes to discuss the issue at the next joint meeting of the Housing Authority and City Council, tentatively scheduled for February.
“I have every confidence we’re going to be able to work together,” Howell said. “We definitely hope we’ll be discussing the issue and how we can be working together and coordinating our efforts for the best interests of the city.”
Passionate pursuit
On Friday, Engelken said she still was getting her feet wet in her new job, but she already has developed many goals. Engelken, who was a stay-at-home mother doing some private consulting work before being hired by the city, said she has worked for more than 20 years on affordable housing and homeless issues.
“It’s always been my passion,” Engelken said. “It was a good fit, and plus to be able to work with the planning department, city staff and City Council as well as developers and the residents of Steamboat on a big issue in my community is a huge honor.”
Engelken said the gap between housing costs and incomes is putting even rental opportunities out of reach for many Steamboat residents.
“That situation is only getting worse,” Engelken said.
She said she hopes to look for public-private partnerships, work with the Housing Authority and educate the people of Steamboat Springs “about the need for affordable housing and what it means for every one of us to have housing for the people who work here.”
She also dismissed the fear that she would duplicate Housing Authority efforts and said the issue of affordable housing is a large enough one to be attacked from many angles.
“Given the level of need that has been documented for this community alone, the more people we can involve … the better off we’re going to be in the long run,” Engelken said.
— To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail