Affordable housing, yes: But how much?
FRISCO – Residents near Frisco Elementary School say they support affordable housing – just not too much of it in one spot.An affordable housing development planned for the corner of Belford Street and Eighth Avenue has raised eyebrows among some neighbors. They say the proposed 12-unit project is too dense for the single acre of town-owned land where the housing will sit.”I was led to believe that compatibility with the neighborhood was important,” said Jeff Andrew, who has spearheaded a grassroots lobbying effort among his neighbors to reduce the number of housing units in the project. “Within a two-block area, the average density is 8.25 units per acre. The objective was to make this a model affordable housing development. We’re not going to solve the whole housing situation on a one-acre parcel.”The neighborhood is zoned for a maximum of 12 units per acre, and the town’s contract with the developers allows “up to” 12 units. Development partners Rob Dick and Henry Burgwyn have submitted a 12-unit sketch plan to the town, but they have not yet completed a formal development application.”To me, it’s a matter of economics,” said Frisco Mayor Bernie Zurbriggen, who encouraged Andrew to meet with the developers. “We want as much affordable housing as we can get, so it’s kind of a fine line. We’re trying to make this work, and in the end, we need to make an intelligent decision.”As long as the project meets zoning codes and the developers’ contract, the planning commission and the town council are powerless to require changes, regardless of neighbors’ feelings about “compatibility.”
“The discretion on the number of units is in the hands of the developer,” said town attorney Thad Renaud.Consequently, Andrew has begun appealing to the developers directly to reduce the number of units, and he’s making some headway toward his goal.”When I had a discussion with Rob Dick today, he proposed a compromise to come down to 10 units,” Andrew said Wednesday. “In addition, he will eliminate two six-car garage buildings.”Andrew agreed to discuss the proposed changes with his neighbors in preparation for a meeting today (Monday) with Dick at town hall at 4 p.m.”If we could get support from (Andrew) and the neighborhood – and I feel like we will have that support – we could scale the project back to 10,” Dick said. “If we don’t, we’ll propose 12 and see where it goes.”We want to work cooperatively. It is our intention to make as many friends as possible and prove that affordable housing can be a good neighbor,” Dick added.
The developers’ original proposal included seven units that would be affordable to people making 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). Three of the units would be affordable to those making 100 percent AMI, and two would be sold at market value.According to Frisco community development director Mark Gage, the two-bedroom units could sell for about $176,000.”He may sell them for less, depending on his costs,” Gage said.Reducing the number of units in the project would disperse the fixed costs of development among fewer units, thus making it harder to keep costs down.”I haven’t run any numbers, but my suspicion is that we’ll probably be able to keep the sale price where it is, but we won’t have garages. That will equal the increased cost in infrastructure,” Dick said.”The challenge really has to do with money. Every time somebody says, ‘I want’ in a project it costs money, and ultimately the homeowner pays for it,” Dick added.
Joanne Van Steenberghe, program director at Summit County Housing Authority, sees the local demand for affordable homes every day.”We do free homebuyers classes, and 230 people have attended in 2004,” Van Steenberghe said. “Of that, about 40 percent end up buying. I would say the average price of a home they’re able to purchase is $160,000. Most of them fall in that range of 100 percent AMI or less.”Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at email@example.com.
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