Frisco adopts Housing Helps program, which would pay homeowners to add deed restrictions to their units

FRISCO — Frisco Town Council adopted a new initiative called the Frisco Housing Helps program during its most recent meeting last week, a move meant to preserve the existing stock of workforce housing units in town.

The resolution, which authorizes town staff to implement the program, passed in a split 5-1 vote with Councilwoman Deborah Shaner objecting. Councilman Hunter Mortensen was absent from the hearing.

“This is one element of potentially moving forward and making strides in one of your highest priorities,” said Joyce Allgaier, Frisco’s community development director, who introduced the plan to the council last week. “The program is intended to increase housing for local employees. Homeowners, buyers, businesses and investors can be compensated for an occupancy restriction on a property they own, intend to purchase or build. What that really means is we put this program in place to purchase deed restrictions for workforce housing.”

The program is framed around similar initiatives like the Vail InDeed and Breckenridge’s Housing Helps programs and is meant to help locals obtain and maintain housing, assist businesses with housing their employees and incentivize investment in local housing — key goals outlined in the town’s 2019-20 strategic plan.

Once implemented, the town can provide homeowners or buyers a cash incentive to put a deed restriction on their house that would simply restrict occupancy of the unit to individuals working an average of 30 hours a week in the Ten Mile Basin. The deed restriction wouldn’t carry any other constraints, such as AMI limits, appreciation caps or resale price caps.

The program is voluntary and can be used in a number of circumstances. According to the resolution, the incentive can be used by new buyers to help purchase a market-rate unit or by current owners of a market-rate unit. Additionally, the program allows the town to purchase a market-rate or existing deed-restricted housing unit and resell the property with a new occupancy deed restriction or provide cash to property owners to construct a deed restricted accessory dwelling unit on the property.

“New construction is expensive, and this program would work toward preserving, saving and utilizing the existing housing stock that’s built today,” Allgaier said. “It allows locals to stay in their own homes and take some of that compensation to fix up their homes or pay HOA dues. Local businesses can acquire housing for employees, and the program supports private investment in local housing. And in a more general sense, and something we know is important to Frisco, it will help to gain a critical mass of employees who actually work in our town. … It supports a strong economy, and it builds a stronger community.”

The town will fund the program using its 5A revenue, and the amount given to each person participating in the program will be determined by a number of factors, including the current market conditions, how well the property meets current community needs (size, location and access to transit among others), comparing similar market-rate and deed-restricted properties to determine the impact of the restriction, and the amount requested from the participant. The town believes most restrictions will be valued between 10% and 15% of the market rate.

While the resolution passed, there were some concerns raised by council members, including whether the town will see a significant benefit if people choose to take the money and stay in their homes for a prolonged period, or if the restrictions could create a negative effect on the property values of nearby units.

“I struggle with the scenario where we give somebody $60,000, and they stay in their house for 20 years, and we don’t realize the value of that down the road, and that house has appreciated every year and probably doubled in price,” Councilman Dan Fallon said. “I struggle to some degree with the length of time we could be fronting somebody money, and they could be sitting on that because there’s no use requirements for the cash once we give it to them.”

“I like this idea, and I think it’s thinking outside the box,” Councilwoman Shaner added. “But I don’t like every unit in town being fair game if their neighbors don’t want it to be a deed-restricted unit. … If you buy in a neighborhood with market housing, and all of a sudden your block turns into half deed restrictions, what does that do to your property value? I think that’s a fair question. The more I think about this, you could really start affecting people’s real estate values.”

Regardless, the council ultimately voted to adopt the program. Town manager Nancy Kerry said it would take about a month to finish marketing and application materials, after which the program would be launched.

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