Officials tackle attainable housing dilemma … again |

Officials tackle attainable housing dilemma … again

SUMMIT COUNTY – It’s no secret that affordable housing is an issue in Summit County. The continuing mystery is how to address it.

Housing consultant Gary Suiter is trying to present solutions to the problem.

Suiter, formerly a town manager in Snowmass Village, was hired by the Summit Housing Authority (SHA) to help create a five-year strategic plan on the subject. The SHA is paying Suiter about $22,000 for five months of work that should end with some recommended steps toward a solution.

A 2001 housing-needs survey showed Summit County is between 1,000 and 1,500 units shy of meeting its housing demand. The ski areas and towns have helped bring several affordable housing complexes to life. Additionally, low interest rates have brought home ownership into reach for some people, but the problem remains.

“We still have people come into our office that struggle to qualify to buy something,” said SHA board chairman Doug Sullivan. “We have 30 to 40 people a month in our homebuying class.”

Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula said he’s frustrated by the community reaction to the housing quandary.

“The two issues people will tell you are important are housing and child care, but they absolutely refuse to pay for them,” he said.

Suiter led a workshop this week with the Summit Leadership Forum and housing authority members, trying to pinpoint the issues surrounding the housing dilemma and the roles county agencies can play in solving it.

While Mamula said he thought the worksession was helpful, County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom was unimpressed.

“We came to the same conclusions we’ve come to about four or five times before,” he said.

But Suiter said he feels there needs to be a countywide plan, one that puts the towns, ski areas and county on the same path.

Lacking such a plan, he said, “It tends to be more of a fragmented effort. One municipality will do something. Another might go in a little bit different direction based on their community needs. Some are more aggressive, some are less.”

Suiter, whose contract with the SHA expires in July, doesn’t yet know what he’ll recommend county officials do.

“It could include something like another election,” he said. “If they’re looking for a permanent funding plan, obviously some significant action needs to be taken.”

During a previous election, the SHA proposed a sales tax to secure permanent funding for the agency. The issue failed.

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

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