SHA questions its future |

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SHA questions its future

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit Housing Authority is considering folding if voters don’t back a long-term funding source, something a recent survey of 300 residents showed could be a possibility.The Authority’s mission is focused on helping young families and community leaders afford owning a home in Summit, where average house prices in some areas reach $500,000. The nonprofit’s mantra is simple: A community can not be a community if local teachers, fire officials and police officers have to commute because of soaring house prices.The Summit Housing Authority (SHA), which met with town officials Wednesday morning, presented a survey that showed a lack of support for a new “affordable housing” tax source, which could include impact fees, sales taxes and property taxes.One option discussed involves asking voters to support taxes that could provide SHA with anywhere between $1.3 million to $5 million, despite the survey findings. If Summit County residents don’t support the tax increase, one drastic result could be shutting down SHA. Board member Marc Hogan suggested the idea, and it garnered some support. “Maybe that needs to happen,” said Mayor Pro Tem Peggy Long. “It saddens my heart.” SHA chair Doug Sullivan asserted that the pain of not having affordable housing in the county hasn’t become great enough for people to financially back it. He said homeowners don’t realize the impact lack of affordable housing ultimately will have on services in the community. Homeowners made up 93 percent of the survey respondents, while renters made up only 7 percent. Though the survey may have provided skewed results – since renters are the ones who potentially need affordable housing – it would have cost the SHA an additional $10,000 for a more comprehensive survey, said executive director Bonnie Osborn. “I think support for housing is much stronger than the survey results (show),” Osborn said. But if SHA presents the question in November, it risks failure. That could negatively affect the housing authority’s reputation, just as it’s getting its name out there, said board member Chuck Zurbriggen. In 2002, SHA asked voters for permanent funding through a sales tax, and voters didn’t approve it. Meanwhile, the community needs 2,175 additional affordable units, and will need 3,000 by 2010, according to a 2005 needs assessment. Currently, 61 percent of SHA’s funding stems from an intergovernmental agreement with the towns, county and ski areas. The agreement expires in December, though the entities support SHA and want to find even better ways to fund affordable housing. But with the survey results, Breckenridge will not support a countywide ballot issue, said town manager Tim Gagen; Silverthorne council members are disappointed with the survey outcome and may support a lesser amount of $1.3 million, said town manager Kevin Batchelder; and Frisco officials will discuss the issue at their next meeting. “If we have an impact fee, it has to be on a countywide level,” said town manager Michael Penny. “If Breckenridge moves forward (with its own ballot issue to fund housing), it creates factions.” Even if the towns support the measure, SHA needs builders, real estate agents and other large organizations to support it, said Commissioner Bill Wallace. When members of the Summit County Builders Association left their last meeting assuming the issue wouldn’t come to a vote, liaison Tom Eble said they seemed “pretty happy.” However, he didn’t think they would actively oppose a campaign supporting the measure. Zurbriggen said the real estate community is finally on board and isn’t prone to raise opposition. “It’s time to reach out to those groups – Realtors and builders – and get support,” Batchelder said. “One way may be to minimize impact fees.” Wallace pointed out that successful ballot questions require a strong campaign to pass. Childcare, recycling and open space issues all had 30 to 50 active campaigners and about $10,000 to $20,000 in funding, he said. Meeting participants light-heartedly came up with the name of the campaign group: “Summit County non-homeowners association,” but they didn’t identify a list of supporters or a campaign manager. Gagen said the ballot issue has two weaknesses: There is no organized group to fight for it, and much of the funding is earmarked for administration. SHA board members varied in opinions about moving forward with the ballot question. Some proposed waiting until 2008, when the presidential election would draw more voters. However, that would mean waiting for funds until 2010. But as talk of closing the doors on the SHA heated up, so did the energy to rally and push for the ballot question to appear in November. “We have enough energy in the room,” Wallace said. “We just need 20 more people.”