Summit County leaders consider asking for renewal of affordable housing tax

Dual 5A taxes set dollars aside to fund new workforce housing construction and operation of the Summit Combined Housing Authority

The 26-unit Huron Landing workforce housing project in Breckenridge was officially completed in June 2017. The affordable workforce housing project was among those backed by 5A funding.
Photo by Kevin Fixler / Summit Daily archives

As Summit County and its partners continue brainstorming and moving projects forward to fill the gap in needed affordable and attainable housing, there’s one recurring question that’s always asked: Where is the money coming from?

In 2006, voters approved the Summit Combined Housing Authority Referred Measure 5A, which was a sales and use tax of 0.125%. This tax began funding the Summit Combined Housing Authority, which now offers programs and services related to the sale and resale of deed-restricted homes, homebuyer education, down payment assistance loans, deed-restricted unit monitoring, resale calculations and more.

In 2016, voters approved another 5A measure that’s a sales and use tax of 0.6%, which funds new construction of workforce and affordable housing projects. The tax will be collected over 10 years. To Rob Murphy, executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority, the passing of this measure was a vital step in filling a growing gap in the community’s housing stock.

“Voters recognized that the affordable housing challenges the community was facing were increasing and that more resources were required to address them effectively,” Murphy said. “They approved an additional tax at a higher amount which significantly expanded the ability of the Housing Authority and all of the jurisdictions in Summit County to tackle the affordable housing issues in the community.”

Murphy said even the original 5A measure of 0.125% was unique to Summit County and showed that community members were serious about the county’s longstanding housing issues.

“The 5A tax is really kind of unusual,” he said. “It’s pretty rare to have communities that have a tax like this — to have a resource that voters have approved that’s dedicated to housing projects, to affordable housing — so it was really a big step of the community in recognizing and beginning the work of addressing affordable housing issues that we have here as a resort community.”

The 0.6% tax is collected and then distributed proportionately to the county and all of the towns each year. Murphy said since this measure was passed, it’s generated about $47 million in funding across the community. Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz said this funding has helped back projects like Dillon Valley Vistas and Huron Landing in Breckenridge, among others.

Though the fund helps back these types of much-needed housing complexes, it’s not always enough on its own to support massive projects, such as the Lake Hill development in Frisco. Summit County Finance Director Martina Ferris said between the 0.125% tax and the 0.6% tax, the county has received a total of more than $11 million, but only $3.2 million currently sits in the fund, which is also supplemented with a housing development impact fee and a housing endowment fee.

Ferris said on average, the 0.125% tax reels in anywhere from $250,000 to $350,000 just for the county while the 0.6% tax collects about $2.5 million per year.

“The county itself brings in roughly around ($2.5) million per year with that fund,” Dietz said. “… That doesn’t come close to financing a full project.”

Ferris said that in 2020, both taxes collected a total of about $11 million, which was split between the county and the towns. In 2019, the taxes collected about $11.5 million.

Though not enough money to solve all of the county’s affordable housing issues, it is a large enough sum to slowly chip away at the issue. During the Summit County Housing Action Initiative meeting held in July, local leaders identified that the community needs funds like these that can be secured for the long term.

Since that event, town and county staff members have begun to explore what it would look like to put the renewal of the 0.6% tax on the ballot for this year’s election, giving community members the option to extend the measure into the future. The idea is largely still in discussion, but if passed, Murphy said it could provide security to critical projects in the future.

“Because the affordable housing crisis has gotten so bad — because of the level of severity that we’ve now reached — it’s important that the jurisdictions are able to count on funding from 5A moving forward, not only now, but beyond 2026 and for the next several years after that,” Murphy said. “That is so both short-term and long-term projects in the pipeline, that the 5A funding can be relied upon for those projects. It’s an opportunity for the voters, if they were to pass it, to support extended continued funding for 5A in such a way that would create security for a lot of those projects and remove the risk that funding might disappear in 2026.”

Murphy said a decision on whether to have the measure proposed to voters on the ballot this November has to be made in early September.

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