High demand for new affordable housing units highlights countywide need
Next week, Summit County celebrates the grand opening of a new affordable housing subdivision located in Silverthorne.
A ceremony for Phase II of the Villa Sierra Madre development begins at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, at 1201 Adams Ave.
But months before the new eight-building, 64-unit project was ever completed, every single unit was rented out with an ever-lengthening waiting list growing behind it. The high demand underscores the great need for affordable housing in Summit County.
“They’re all filled up,” said Jim Curnette, Summit County community development coordinator. “They went fast and there is a waiting list. It’s been extremely successful.”
While many other affordable housing projects in Summit have focused on owning homes, the new phase of Villa Sierra Madre caters to renters.
“It’s a really good project because it’s all rental,” Curnette said.
“It provides a very important service for the local workforce,” said Julie Sutor, public affairs coordinator for Summit County.
The overall project cost more than $10 million and is run by Catholic Charities. But the county played an important role by providing $350,000 to improve and renovate the commons area, with its playground and computer center.
“We wanted this to be more than a place for people to rest their heads,” Sutor said. “We wanted this to be a vibrant and livable community.”
Curnette said the Catholic Church approached county staff several years ago to see if they wanted to get involved with the project. Staff and commissioners agreed it was a positive project.
“But we didn’t want the money to just go to light bulbs or striping the parking lot, we wanted it to go to make a substantial impact, so we ensured our money went to the clubhouse,” Curnette said. “We wanted it to help improve the quality of life.”
Summit County voters approved two different measures in the past decade to dedicate a portion of tax revenue to helping solve the affordable housing situation.
In November 2006, a temporary sales and usage tax of one-eighth of 1 percent, and a development impact fee of $2 or less per square foot of new construction was approved by voters to go to affordable housing. The fee and tax were approved for a period of 10 years.
In 2008 Summit County voters approved another temporary tax, a 12-year property tax levy, to go to affordable housing. According to the county, those combined sources are expected to generate $1.3 million annually for affordable housing from 2010 through 2021.
Individuals and families can qualify for affordable housing if their household incomes meet a certain percentage of area median income (AMI).
The units at Phase II of Villa Sierra Madre accept individuals and families making between 40 and 60 percent of Summit County’s AMI. For example, the average household of four in Summit earned $90,800 last year. Therefore, a family of four earning $54,540, earns 60 percent of AMI and would qualify.
Individual AMI is $63,600; therefore, a household of one would qualify for 60 percent AMI if the person’s annual income was $38,160.
The county has invested in other ways to help with affordable housing in the future.
It’s purchased tracts of land in Summit Cove and Dillon Valley that will one day be used for affordable housing projects. The county is now in the process of acquiring 40 acres at Lake Hill, just east of Frisco.
“We make sure we identify areas that are near schools, workforce centers, transit systems, water service and centrally located,” Curnette said.
And while the Villa Sierra Madre project has proved to be a success, it also proves the need for still more affordable housing countywide.
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