Our View: An open-door housing policy
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Steamboat Pilot / TODAY
Editorial Board, January to April 2008
Bryna Larsen, publisher
Brent Boyer, editor
Mike Lawrence, city editor
Tom Ross, reporter
Noreen Moore, community representative
Tom Miller-Freutel, community representative
Steamboat Springs — We are encouraged that the Steamboat 700 development team is floating a housing proposal that is broader than some policies envisioned in the city and county’s West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.
From the start, Project Manager Danny Mulcahy has shown a willingness to work within existing development guidelines and collaborate with local officials, while crafting plans for the 700-acre site between Steamboat Springs Airport and Silver Spur. We believe that ethic has not changed, despite a break from the area plan in 700’s community housing proposal.
That break is founded on creative, forward-looking ideas. A range of incomes and households will be needed to make Steamboat 700 a successful addition to our community. A flexible housing plan will be needed to accommodate that range.
The 700 plan potentially provides that flexibility by expanding the range of buyers who could qualify for affordable homes.
The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, updated in 2006, asks developers to provide 20 percent affordable housing for people making an average of 80 percent of Routt County’s area median income. Steamboat 700’s community housing plan targets people making an average of 120 percent AMI.
According to 2007 Routt County data, a family of four at 80 percent of AMI has a household income of $58,880. At 120 percent of AMI, that family’s income is $88,320. Each household could include two valued members of the workforce, such as teachers or public service workers, trying to buy a home. In Routt County’s rapidly changing housing and employment markets, the need for affordable homes likely doesn’t stop at 80 percent.
In fact, we don’t know where the need stops or starts. At a hearing Thursday night, Mulcahy stated a glaring fact — there is no existing database that compiles the local demand for affordable housing or analyzes the needs of various income levels.
Thus the question becomes who, exactly, Steamboat 700 should aim to provide housing for.
“That really is the question that needs to be answered,” said Peter Smirniotopoulos of UniDev, LLC, the housing consultants hired by Steamboat 700. “We believe strongly that it needs to be a range.”
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak acknowledged that the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan already is a somewhat dated document.
“When we developed that criteria, it was based on the information we had at the time,” Stahoviak said of housing guidelines in the area plan. “I am really going to push for the city, the housing authority and Steamboat 700 to get together and create the database that we’ve been talking about for so long, that we need. Then we will actually know what need is out there.”
Smirniotopoulos said he is creating a scope of work for such a study. Local officials have several upcoming chances to discuss the issue.
The Steamboat Springs City Council, Routt County commissioners and Yampa Valley Housing Authority have a joint meeting Tuesday night in Centennial Hall. Stahoviak said a topic of discussion will be the best way to create a housing database, which could be used for many more purposes than Steamboat 700.
Steamboat 700’s development team meets with city staff Wednesday and has a public hearing before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday.
As the development’s lengthy annexation and approval process moves forward, we encourage forward-looking housing solutions and hope that good ideas aren’t tossed aside solely because they don’t comply with the area plan.