Breck targets ‘affordability creep’
BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge Town Council is trying to keep affordable houses affordable in future projects by possibly capping real estate commissions at 3 percent and implementing income verification to make sure deed-restricted homes are going to the right people.The test would be aimed at homebuyers who make 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or less. The AMI is the amount of income in the community where half the people make more and half make less. In Summit County, the AMI for a family of four is $76,100.The council is targeting “affordability creep,” which occurs when deed-restricted units become too expensive for people in the income class for whom they were originally built.The “creep” has affected the Wellington Neighborhood the most because many homeowners there have opted to build garages and storage units.They are allowed to do so under another deed restriction that says they can make improvements to their homes – but only if the improvements are done within the first five years of ownership and only up to 15 percent the value of the home.
That’s where the affordability creep comes into play.When the first homeowners sell the home – now equipped with a garage – they sell it for the value of both. And that will eventually price the homes out of the market for the people who need attainable housing the most, according to town officials.”I believe with each house we have a one-time opportunity,” said Councilmember Larry Crispell. “When the house sold with a 15 percent cap on the improvements, we’ve said it’s OK for the house to jump up to the next (income) category.”Whatever needs assessment is done, we’ve thrown out the window,” Crispell continued. “The capital improvements are driving houses into the next (AMI) category. We’re taking care of our present needs, not those of the next generation.”Councilmembers Jeffrey Bergeron, Jim Lamb, J.B. Katz and Mayor Ernie Blake disagreed, saying homeowners should be able to recoup the expense of building the garage when they sell the home, otherwise they would have little incentive to make the improvements.”I’m more concerned with the people who live there now than I am for the hypothetical future buyers that might be affected by different growth spurts, a different economy, different employee realities,” Bergeron said.
“There are viable arguments on both sides. I want to err on the side that we need to make viable places for people who live here now so they have an interest in the community,” he said.Councilmember Rob Millisor agreed with Crispell, saying, “Every unit this happens to is one more unit we have to build to meet the (housing) needs assessment of the town.”The council also believes implementing an income verification, or means test, could ensure only those people who make 80 percent or less AMI buy a home built for that income level.Currently, the only means test is required for houses in Gibson Heights.Wellington Neighborhood developer David O’Neil has said he’s willing to work with the town or Summit Housing Authority – which could ultimately be the clearinghouse for deed restricted units – to develop a test prohibiting people who make more than 80 percent AMI – $60,880 – to buy the more affordable homes.
Town council members said they were interested in further evaluations of the Summit Housing Authority taking over sales of the deed-restricted housing. It could, in return, collect a 3 percent commission, which could, in time, help the agency with its constant funding woes.Some Wellington Neighborhood homeowners applauded the town’s attempt to keep homes affordable.”Had I not owned my own house (previously), I don’t know how I’d do it,” said Sharon Steiner. “I couldn’t afford anything in the town of Breckenridge. I appreciate that there’s a Wellington Neighborhood.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at email@example.com.
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