Congressman Jared Polis pitches land sale for affordable-housing development
Congressman Jared Polis spoke in Frisco Thursday to announce two new bills related to affordable housing in Summit County; one providing land for future development and a second simplifying finance regulations for attainable housing in high-tourism areas.
“There are government regulations and a high cost of living that make it harder for families that work in our communities to live in our communities,” Polis said at a news conference held at Frisco Town Hall. “And as our mountain communities continue to thrive and grow, affordable housing … becomes even more important.”
The Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act, if passed, would allow Summit County government to purchase a 40-acre parcel of land between Interstate 70 and Dillon Dam Road from the U.S. Forest Service for possible future development as affordable housing. The local Dillon Ranger District would keep the money from the sale to help fund a new administrative compound or other infrastructure needs in the future.
Officials said the plot, surrounded by development and recently stripped of most of its timber following the pine-beetle epidemic, has lost its national forest character.
“This process has really been multiple years in the works,” County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said of the bill’s drafting. “I feel like we’ve really come up with an important bill that will be great for our community.”
Polis also introduced the Affordable Housing Regulation Simplification Act, a bill without local roots, but potentially with a high local impact, which would revise existing affordable housing finance regulations in designated high-tourism areas. The measure, if approved, would form a new workforce-housing mortgage category for prospective homebuyers who work in the tourism industry and live in high-tourism areas. It would also relax Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Federal Housing Administration restrictions on the types of properties frequently found in resort communities.
Polis said he expects the agencies to come out against the bill, but hopes fighting it won’t be a top priority.
“It needs to be marketed as a narrow fix for resort communities that doesn’t expose them to any more risk. And there’s no reason it would,” he said. “We’re not expecting support, but I don’t expect they’ll be putting in a major effort against these bills.”
Polis plans to introduce both bills in Washington when Congress reconvenes the first week of June. He said he anticipates very little opposition to the Lake Hill measure and is cautiously optimistic both bills could be signed by the president by 2014.
Local officials said the Lake Hill property is currently zoned for affordable housing, but won’t necessarily be developed as such.
“We’d work with the town of Frisco to purchase that property and then based on that, we’d have a public process just like any development, looking at local land use authorities,” Gibbs said. “We wouldn’t decide right away, it would be a process to really figure out what the immediate needs are there.”
The county has funding for affordable housing initiatives from two voter-approved tax sources, but officials said any development would likely be part of a public-private partnership.
Polis’s visit Thursday rounded off a weeklong tour across Colorado. The press conference was followed by a town hall meeting at the Community and Senior Center.
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