Local officials say SHA will survive
SUMMIT COUNTY – Even though the Summit Housing Authority (SHA) lost its ballot request for sales tax funding, local officials say they don’t want to see the agency shut down.
“(The SHA is) an instrument that is absolutely essential to our getting some attainable housing in this county,” said Frisco Mayor Bob Moscatelli. “We need their expertise and their help, so for those reasons, I don’t think the county and towns will allow them to close their doors.”
Currently, the SHA is funded by donations from the county, towns and ski areas. That funding arrangement ends this year, and SHA Director Gordon Ferris has spent most of the past year coming up with a plan to keep the SHA going. Housing authorities aren’t allowed to propose taxes.
A new law allows taxing ability with the creation of a multijurisdictional housing authority. Summit County and Silverthorne created that group to bring Tuesday’s proposed sales tax increase to the ballot.
The .05 of 1 percent sales tax would have raised about $400,000 a year, enough to cover the annual operating costs of the SHA. The steady source of funding would have put an end to the SHA’s treks to council meetings and ski area boardrooms to plead for money.
The SHA provides housing programs and seeks opportunities to create affordable housing within Summit County.
The tax question failed with 3,622 people voting for it and 4,242 in opposition.
A second question, which would have allowed the authority to use and spend funds garnered from the sales tax, passed. But Ferris said that was a moot point in light of the sales tax failure.
Wednesday, Ferris said he thought he would have to revert to asking the towns, county and ski areas for the housing authority’s annual funding.
“It’s either that or go out of business,” he said.
Local officials aren’t so sure that’s the case.
While County Commissioner Bill Wallace, an advisor to the SHA board, said he was disappointed in the election results, he doesn’t see it as the agency’s death knell.
“I think if the governments of Summit County can come to an agreement so Gordon doesn’t have to spend lots of time every year making money, the housing authority will continue to operate,” Wallace said. “But if the governmental entities can’t come to an agreement as to how it’s going to be funded, there won’t be any money. If there’s no money, you can’t run an operation.”
Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula said, for his part, he’ll continue to support the SHA.
“I can’t think of any reason to abandon the Summit Housing Authority model now,” he said. “It would certainly set us back.
“I can’t speak for everybody else, but (the SHA has) worked successfully for the town of Breckenridge. We’ve had problems and things we’d like to resolve, but we have a healthy reservoir of affordable for-sale and rental units. Breckenridge has spent too much time and money on affordable housing to throw in the towel now.”
But Silverthorne Mayor Lou DelPiccolo said he fears the election results point to a lack of support for the SHA.
“Everyone complains about housing, but when it comes to seriously doing something about it, there is a tremendous amount of reluctance,” he said. “I do think we do have a housing issue that we should, as a community, address. But somehow, there isn’t the political will to do it.
“Obviously, the electorate is tired of being taxed. But I think there is an underlying issue. Every survey says there is a housing problem, but, when it gets down to putting your money where you mouth is, it doesn’t seem to carry much weight.”
DelPiccolo said the formation of the multijurisdictional housing authority and the funding it could have created for the SHA represented “a splendid opportunity to do something meaningful.”
“My question is whether it really accomplishes anything to attempt to put a housing authority on life support, which I think is all we were asking for,” he said. “Is it worthwhile to have it on life support, or should we just pull the plug?”
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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