Towns, county take different housing paths
February 18, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Along with the four local towns, Summit County is also a player in the affordable housing game. Assistant county manager Steve Hill said the county’s role is to coordinate efforts among the various entities and to provide an overview of a countywide affordable housing strategy.
“We’re trying to track what different folks are doing,” said assistant county manager Steve Hill. The idea is to make sure that the different entities aren’t shooting at the same target, Hill said.
“We also want to try and factor in what the private market is doing. We’re just a few steps behind,” Hill said. The county’s research could help show exactly what types of units are needed and identify which should have priority when it comes to actually building them, Hill said.
Some of the information is included in a comprehensive housing needs assessment completed by a consultant. But it’s important to “drill down” and be as specific as possible, said Breckenridge town manager Tim Gagen.
“It is a little frustrating,” Gagen said, referring to the latest round of studies. “But each one takes you to a different place.”
If, for example, there are people currently living in Park County who would like to move to Summit County and buy a home, it’s important to know exactly what they want.
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“If they’re saying they need three bedroom homes and we’re building one bedroom units, it doesn’t make sense,” Gagen said.
So far, the county has collected about $300,000 from the combination of sales tax and development impact fees. That amount in itself won’t go far to tackle specific projects. But the county will explore potential partnerships with Breckenridge, and may also use the money to help with down payment assistance for affordable home buyers, Hill said.
“I’m pretty excited. There’s going to be more inventory on the ground in the next couple of years,” said Breckenridge Town Councilmember Rob Millisor, who also chairs the Summit Combined Housing Authority board.
Millisor said Breckenridge is ahead of the game primarily because the town has been in the affordable housing business for several years and has banked some hefty chunks of land for new projects. The town is also collecting 5A revenue in a big way ” an estimated $1.085 million annually, according to planner Laurie Best.
Some of that money will go directly toward subsidizing construction of 40 to 50 units on the Valley Brook property, along Airport Road. The town is taking proposals for that development from three final bidders and hopes to break ground this summer, Millisor said. The Valley Brook neighborhood will be mostly townhomes aimed at meeting demand from residents who make between 80 and 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).
Along with building new homes, Breckenridge also wants to address the potential loss of existing local housing, Gagen said.
“We’re going to lose what we do have, what we claim as affordable local housing Gagen said. The problem is a generational one. As people who moved to Breckenridge in the 1970s and 1980s decide to sell their homes and move on, many of those properties will end up as second homes.
“That’s what happened in Aspen and Vail,” Gagen said.
One answer is to use affordable housing funds for a buy-down program to keep those existing homes affordable, Gagen said. Under a buy-down, the town would purchase properties and resell them at prices that stay within the needed price range.
Breckenridge is also grappling with another challenge. The price of some homes built specifically as affordable housing is starting to creep outside the affordable range, as owners add on capital improvement costs and real estate fees to the sale price. Gagen said the new master deed restrictions from the SCHA (used as a guideline by towns) addresses that problem. The new guidelines restrict what can be added to the price, Gagen said.
Given those challenges, Breckenridge’s goal is to maintain the number of locals who live in town at about 45 to 50 percent, he said.
“Every jurisdiction is going to do something different,” said Dillon Town Councilmember Don Parsons.
“In Dillon, we’re land-poor”, said Parsons, who also sits on the SCHA board. With limited land for new development, the town isn’t going to see a big influx of cash from development impact fees. Parsons said the town has collected about $100,00 so far.
That won’t go very far toward the actual construction of affordable units, so the town will find some other way to use the money.
“I suspect what we’ll do is contribute it to downpayment assistance,” Partsons said, adding that it’s policy decision for the town council. “That’s a more viable option, since $100,000 won’t go very far as far as building new units,” Parsons said.
Parsons said the entire county needs to find ways to work together and to include other stakeholders, including the hospital and the school district.
“We’re talking, but we’re not making much progress,” he concluded.