Finding a fix for the housing shortage | SummitDaily.com

Finding a fix for the housing shortage

BOB BERWYN
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” With money from a year-old sales tax and impact fee flowing into public coffers, each local town is taking a slightly different approach to tackling the affordable housing shortage.

As of November, Silverthorne had collected $465,867, said town manager Kevin Batchelder. The town doesn’t have any specific plans to spend any of the money yet. But there are some projects in the works, Batchelder said.

“In the next couple of months, we’ll have some definite plans,” Batchelder said, explaining that the town council will take look at a slew of affordable housing tools to decide where the town can maximize its investment.

Among the options is putting some of the funds toward a buy-down program, to help keep existing homes within the affordable target range, as well as down-payment assistance, which also helps locals get into existing housing.

A key part of Silverthorne’s housing strategy has been to look at potential annexations with eye toward affordable housing, Batchelder said. Several developers have recently approached the town with ideas about annexations that could incorporate an affordable housing element, although Batchelder said he couldn’t give details at this early stage.

Most recently, the annexation agreement with South Maryland Creek Ranch requires developer Tom Everist to build between eight and 12 units on a one-acre town-owned parcel on Anemone Trail. The two-bedroom, two-garage units have to be completed by the end of 2009.

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The town bought the one-acre parcel for $235,000 from Dillon back in 2002, well before voters approved the affordable housing initiative in 2006. More land acquisitions could also play a role in Silverthorne’s approach.

Batchelder said there’s potential for affordable housing on a piece of land owned by Xcel Energy, depending on exactly where the company sites a new substation.

For now, the town is trying to localize the results of a countywide housing needs assessment. The town’s followup to the broader study will assess the impacts of different strategies, Batchelder said.

“We want to take a look at that plan and figure which strategies to use,” Batchelder said. The needs assessment showed that the demand for new affordable housing units in the Lower Blue Basin is considerably less than in other parts of the county, according to Batchelder.

“It was kind of eye-opening to see the difference in demand,” he said.

The town also wants to get an accurate count of existing deed-restricted units, including rental properties, that were built under separate agreements with developers. Batchelder cited the Sierra Villa Madre apartments as an example of a neighborhood that has not been included in the town’s affordable housing calculations.

“It should be included somehow,” he said.

Frisco is also looking at the entire range of options to address what community development director Mark Gage considers to be a housing crisis. Lack of affordable homes is making it tough for local businesses ” and the town government ” to find and retain employees, according to Gage.

In 2007, Frisco’s share of the affordable housing sales tax revenue amounted to $158,806. Another $27,822 came off the top for SCHA administrative costs, according to figures provided by the town’s finance department.

Frisco’s town council recently adopted a specific affordable housing policy that will help determine how that money is spent.

“This parallels a lot of the work the Summit Combined Housing Authority has already been doing,” said Town Councilmember Woody Van Gundy. Adoption of the policy will help put Frisco on the same page with other local communities.

“We’re pushing for consistency countywide,” said Van Gundy, who also serves on the Housing Authority board.

Van Gundy said the newly adopted policy will also help the town move ahead with the Peak One parcel, where several rounds of public input have already started.

The policy sets up various income categories as based on a percentage of the Area Median Income (AMI).

Based on those categories, prices for affordable studio units would range from about $124,000 up to $284,000. Three bedroom affordable housing units would sell from anywhere between $204,000 to $453,000, also depending on income category.

Town manager Michael Penny said nailing down those AMI figures and identifying the size and type of units the town is looking for are the key parts of the policy.

Other tools to meet affordable housing goals could include in-fill zoning, increasing the maximum density in residential areas beyond the maximum number of units per acre allowed by zoning.

The town council hasn’t held any specific discussions about where the affordable housing money should go, said Van Gundy.

For now, the council has been focused on working with the community to develop a master plan for the Peak One parcel.

“Then we’ll start talking about how to finance it. Van Gundy said. “I think it (5A money) will be directed at any and all affordable housing,” he said.

“The 5A money is fantastic, but it’s not a lot,” Gage said. “It’s definitely not the cavalry. We need to supplement it with large amounts,” he said.

To that end, Frisco has budgeted $1.2 million dollars separately from 5A revenue. Gage said. Of that total, $100,000 goes toward continued work on the Peak One parcel, which has the highest priority since it’s the biggest chunk of town-owned land with potential to put a dent in the housing crunch. The is still working citizens to shape a master plan.

Another $500,000 is budgeted for buy-downs, to help keep the price of existing homes in the affordable range.

Other town-owned parcels besides Peak One may also be developed or re-developed for housing, Gage said. That could include a couple of cabins at the historic park for town employees, and another property on Galena Street where the Frisco is eyeing a public-private partnership.

The town is also looking at putting homes on a .25-acre street right-of-way that isn’t used for traffic, Gage said. And other properties, like 110 South Fourth Ave. and the CDOT-owned trailer park could also be scraped and redeveloped as mixed use projects, with office and retail on the ground level and affordable housing above.

Finally, Gage said Frisco may also use a transfer of development rights mechanism to enable developers to import backcountry development rights and get a density bonus for affordable housing projects.