Summit County leaders start to iron out details about new modular home project near the Summit County Justice Center
The development could have up to 54 units and be completed by summer 2023
Another affordable housing project is launching in Breckenridge, and unlike projects such as the second phase of Wintergreen and the Alta Verde development, this project will likely be completed quickly, possibly as early as summer 2023.
Instead of being “stick-built” construction like Wintergreen and Alta Verde, this new project will feature modular homes built by the new Buena Vista-based Fading West Development. The company recently opened a new facility where the homes will be manufactured and then shipped out, and the town of Breckenridge and Summit County are partnering to bring those homes here.
Though the project doesn’t yet have a name — officials have been loosely calling it the Justice Center parcel project — it’s well underway. The proposal features either two- or three-story buildings that will contain up to 54 units. Inside the buildings will be a range of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.
The project is going to be financed 50-50 by the town of Breckenridge and by Summit County, which is also providing the land. Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz said the initial budget for the project was about $15 million but that it’ll likely amount closer to $17 million once it’s finished. Dietz noted that his team is exploring grants and other financing avenues through the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
During a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session meeting Tuesday, Jan. 4, Dietz asked what kind of area median income the units should be capped at, noting that to receive funding from the state, the units would need to be capped at 80% or lower, which is no more than $76,880 for a family of four in Summit County.
Units might not be capped at 80%, but because the state’s funding hinges on that figure, much of the discussion centered on the topic of income.
If the cap was indeed 80%, that would mean that in order to live in this development, a single person could not make more than $53,840 per year, according to the Summit Combined Housing Authority. Thus, a studio rental would be capped at $1,346 per month and a two-bedroom would be capped at $1,730.
Dietz suggested that this project should have a range of income caps so that it can accommodate varying income levels. Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she was comfortable with this but didn’t want to go with such a low cap that it becomes hard to find individuals to meet the criteria. She said this is what happened at times with the Pinewood developments in Breckenridge.
“I don’t see why we need to pick one, but instead, if we could have a range and maybe the majority of units would be at 80% and then we have a few 70% for very low income and some of those at 95%, and I would mix those also between unit types, as well,” Lawrence said.
Summit County Manager Scott Vargo noted that while most of the need was on the lower end of the spectrum, setting the income maximum at different levels allows those whose incomes have increased to find somewhere to go. Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue expressed concern about this idea, though.
“That argument only goes so far because we’ve also … done significantly more building at the sort of middle-end of the (area median income) spectrum than we have at the lower end, so in terms of the inventory that we’ve contributed to the housing supply chain, there is a lot more inventory at the middle end than there is at the lower end,” Pogue said.
She advocated that this project should have a lower income cap on most of the units.
“I do understand wanting to have flexibility, but both from a leveraging state funds perspective and the perspective of where is the most amount of need, the argument lands on having more of this project be lower (area median income) than middle or higher (area median income),” she said.
Pogue was citing the housing needs assessment presented last year when referencing where the greatest need for rentals was within the community, and Lawrence expressed her concern that since the data for that study was collected pre-pandemic, she’s unsure how valid it still is in today’s climate.
Even so, it was noted during the meeting that teachers, nurses, deputies and Summit Stage drivers could all make do with a limit of 80% area median income or lower. Dietz noted it would be harder for a couple to make it work since they would likely exceed the income requirement, which is $61,520 at the 80% threshold.
The commissioners also briefly discussed the density of the project. Dietz and Lawrence both noted that it is a very dense project for being located on less than 2 acres of land, but Pogue and Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard wanted to hold future conversations around density. The two were in favor of creating denser developments that could offer the greatest amount of housing, even if it meant cutting back on parking.
“I think if we continue to assume the status quo, we could be missing an opportunity here about how we as a larger community think about density,” Blanchard said. “I absolutely hear you — this is more dense — but when you look at other areas of workforce housing, it may not be as dense in other communities.”
The leaders also discussed how many units they’d like to reserve for county staff and landed on around six units, which would be split among different unit sizes. The town of Breckenridge would likely hold onto some units for its own staff, too.
Though much is still to be determined, the project’s rough completion timeline is summer 2023.
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