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Developers propose affordable housing plan

SILVERTHORNE – Doug and Sara Westenskow pay $800 a month for a 650-square-foot basement apartment in Silverthorne. And with the arrival of their daughter, Mackenzie, four weeks ago, they’re looking for a place they can call home.

“We’ve been looking,” Doug said. “We didn’t quite realize how expensive properties were. We could drive way north to Kremmling or go to the other side of Breckenridge, but that wouldn’t be convenient for work.”

Doug Westenskow works at the River Course at Keystone in the summer and in the marketing department in the winter; Sara Westenskow is the assistant manager in the human resources department there. Even their work is starting to feel like a double-edged sword.



As they climb the ranks in their departments, they are creeping out of the income range that qualifies them for affordable housing offered through the Summit Housing Authority. And if their income doesn’t bump them out, the homeowners associations dues do, Doug said.

Other considerations the 30-something couple must keep in mind are their daughter’s upcoming surgery to repair a cleft lip and the looming cost of daycare.



“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Doug said. “We keep saving some money, and hopefully something will come available some day. It’s very frustrating. We really want to be here.”

So do two developers, who presented their ideas for two affordable housing projects to the Breckenridge town council last week.

The town council had just heard an updated report about the housing needs in the Upper Blue Valley. Ten years ago, there was a desperate need for rental units. In the ensuing years, developers and town officials have met that need, said consultant Chris Cares of RRC Associates of Boulder.

But the needs have since changed. Now, Cares said, there is a shortage of housing for households making 80 percent or less of the Area Mean Income (AMI). AMI is described as the amount of income where half the people make more and half make less. In Summit County, the AMI is $71,900.

Developer David O’Neil, who built the first phase of the Wellington Neighborhood, and Gene Gregory, who is building a 334-unit affordable housing complex in Fairplay, hope to meet that need.

O’Neil is building 98 units of attainable housing – for people making 80 to 100 percent of AMI – in the first phase of his project. The remaining 24 units will be sold on the open market. The second phase originally was going to comprise 140 units of residential and some commercial space.

“Based on feedback we got from council, we’re going to rethink everything,” O’Neil said. “We’re going to take into consideration what they’re trying to accomplish.”

To build housing for households that make 80 percent of AMI – $57,520 – or less, developers say they would have to increase the number of homes they could sell on the open market to subsidize the lower prices charged for the affordable housing. Council members said they would consider projects with different mixes.

“The challenge is, we don’t want too many market units,” O’Neil said. “One of the things that’s special about the neighborhood is that there are few market units. It’s predominantly locals. That’s huge in terms of stability.”

Gregory wants to buy the four-acre parcel at County Road 450 and Highway 9 and build 62 single-wide homes similar to those at Tiger Run RV Resort north of town. Half would be priced at $162,000 and half at $187,000 – just what the Westenskows can afford.

In return, Gregory will ask the town to waive tap, building, permit and annexation fees. He also needs more density and is working with town planning staff to determine how much is currently on the land, which is in the county and zoned as commercial. Breckenridge allows upzoning only for employee housing.

In the meantime, the Westenskows will keep looking for a place they can call home.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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