Town of Silverthorne makes updates to employee housing program

A for sale sign sits in front of a home in the Willowbrook neighborhood in Silverthorne on Saturday, Dec. 5. The town will update its down payment program to help with employee retention, and applicants can receive up to $60,000 if the home is within town limits.
Libby Stanford/

The town of Silverthorne will update its housing down payment program for town employees. The hopes of town staff is that these updates will not only help with employee retention and recruitment, but also help town employees achieve home ownership in a housing market that continues to price out many working families.

“The challenge that we’re facing as an organization with employees who want to live and work in this community is pretty rough,” Town Manager Ryan Hyland said. “And we can’t look at the crystal ball and try and figure out what that’s going to look like in the future — potential crashes or zoom to the moon forever.”

In 2017, the town established two housing assistance programs, one for rental deposits and one for down payments to own a home. Since then, none of the town’s employees has opted to use the rental deposit program and four have received loans from the down payment program. Because the program has not been updated in the last five years, changes in the housing market prompted Silverthorne leadership to take another look at it.

Now, after Town Council’s approval at its work session Wednesday, May 11, town employees can receive up to $60,000 or 10% of the purchase price — whichever is higher — as a loan from the town to help with a down payment on a home if the house is within town limits. For homes outside of town limits, but within 40 miles, employees can receive $40,000 or 10% of purchase price.

The maximum home price has to be equal to or less than median home price in Summit County in order to be eligible for a loan. Loans will have a fixed interest rate of 3%.

“Either we get our payments, or we foreclose on the property, which I can’t see ever happening, but it’s kind of a no-lose situation for the town,” Laura Kennedy, finance director for the town of Silverthorne, said. “The first change was to take out the (Federal Housing Administration) loan limit criteria, (and) the second change was to increase the loan amounts. The third change would be to actually increase the radius around the town, because really, things are getting so expensive in the county that for employees to be able to buy, we’re looking at commuting distances rather than just within the county.”

This new radius would allow for homebuyers to look in other counties and communities such as Georgetown, Kremmling and Leadville. On Zillow as of Sunday morning, May 15, there are currently 50 agent listings for properties in the town of Silverthorne, and those listings range from $225,000 for an undeveloped lot to homes priced at well over $1 million to $2 million.

This program would not involve a deed restriction on the purchased home. In addition to allowing for a higher loan amount and a wider radius for homebuyers, Kennedy said that town staff also plans to add a retention aspect to the program, as well.

The updated program also features loan forgiveness, and if the employee who received a loan were to stay with the town for five years, then 25% of the total loan amount would be forgiven. At 10 years, another 25% of the loan would be forgiven.

If an employee were to take out a loan and then leave their position with the town, the interest rate on the loan will go up if they have not paid it off within a year of the termination date.

Town Council members encouraged staff to reach out to all town employees to make sure they know about the assistance program because many may not have discussed it since their onboarding. Hyland said that the success of Smith Ranch — a workforce neighborhood in Silverthorne where homes were sold by lottery — could have something to do with lower interest in the down payment program. He added that at least one or two employees in each of the town’s departments have lived at Smith Ranch.

Multiple communities in Summit County — including Silverthorne — participate in the Summit Combined Housing Authority’s Housing Helps program. Under Housing Helps, the county will pay owners, buyers and sellers to accept a deed restriction on homes that are currently unrestricted, and recipients can use the funds for a down payment, home repairs, special assessments or any other purpose. In a potential update to its housing programs, the town of Silverthorne would also establish its own deed-restricted buying on properties where the county may not be interested.

“Let’s say we’ve got an employee that lives in Wildernest, and … the county, for whatever reason, has said ‘no, we’re not participating in that,'” Hyland said. “That employee could approach their employer (with the town), and our primary motivation would be retaining that employee, but an equal motivation would be we’ve got another deed restriction in our area.”

Hyland said that staff will give the deed-restriction buying program more thought before bringing it back to the Town Council in the future. None of the council members had any immediate concerns about updates to the staff down payment program updates, so that was approved on Wednesday.

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