Silverthorne approves new affordable housing effort |

Silverthorne approves new affordable housing effort

Silverthorne purchased Smith Ranch, a 52-acre parcel of land, several years ago. The land is currently reserved for future workforce housing . In an effort to create more opportunities for affordable housing, the town passed a preliminary version of a "buy down" agreement on Tuesday, that would allow the town to purchase units and resell them as affordable, deed-restricted houses.
File Photo | Summit Daily News

As part of a continued effort to bring affordable housing to Summit County, the town of Silverthorne passed an agreement with the Summit Housing Development Corporation to create framework for a housing buy-down program within the town. The agreement would allow the town to create criteria for purchasing vacant houses, fixing them up and selling them as deed-restricted housing.

At this point, the town has few specifics on the types of houses they would purchase, how the money would be raised and what the selling price would be. Silverthorne senior planner Lina Lesmes said the typical income cap would be at 100 percent of the area median income (AMI), directed at households making $86,000 or less. However, that percentage is not yet set in stone.

“We would be looking for people who work in Summit County at least 30 hours a week,” Lesmes said. “We just put the structure of the program in place in case we want to further develop the program.”

The buy-down program is just one strategy suggested in the county’s 2013 Workforce Housing Needs Assessment. The study, compiled by Rees Consulting, Inc., demonstrates the need for affordable housing in the county and a few methods to meet it.

For example, Silverthorne also purchased a 50-acre plot of land at Smith Ranch, held for a land-banking strategy to be developed for workforce housing in the future.

Silverthorne’s buy-down program is loosely based on one created by Breckenridge, where the town bought units at risk of being converted from employee housing to serving as a second home. The units were near public transit, or in town, and were available to incomes from 80 to 100 percent AMI.

When the initial plan was proposed in February, Silverthorne located seven properties listed for sale for less than $500,000. According to the 2013 assessment, a household with an income at 100 percent AMI would be able to purchase a home between $300,000 and $350,000. With a $50,000 to $100,000 subsidy, homes from $400,000 to $500,000 would be within budget.

The survey noted that for Silverthorne households in 2013, the majority of households (33 percent) made between 80 percent and 120 percent AMI. Thirty-two percent had incomes between 30 percent and 60 percent AMI, and 26 percent had incomes above 120 percent AMI.

The Lower Blue River Basin, including Silverthorne and unincorporated land in the area, had the smallest percentage of restricted workforce housing units, at 225 units or 11 percent of the total. The Upper Blue, including Breckenridge and the surrounding area, had the most, at 726 units or 35 percent of the total.

Still, throughout the entire county, the need for more workforce housing is evident, as many residents commute from outside of the county to make ends meet. For example, about 65 percent of Fire Protection District employees commute. On top of that, 20 percent of all summer jobs are employees who live outside of the county; during the winter, that number jumps to 30 percent.

“What happens for a number of people is they say, ‘I’m done with that,’ and they don’t put down roots in the county,” said Jennifer Kermode, executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority. “We still see people having difficulty affording rents between 60 percent AMI and 120 percent … but every little bit helps.”

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