Udall gets education on local housing issues
SILVERTHORNE – U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., gained some quick insight Friday into Summit County’s housing problems during a roundtable discussion on the issue.
Udall said he might use some of the information to introduce federal legislation on the problem, if he’s elected in November to Colorado’s Second Congressional District.
Udall joined representatives of Fannie Mae, Summit County, the Summit Housing Authority (SHA) and the towns in the conversation held at the Silverthorne Town Hall. He did a lot of listening as local officials told him the challenges Summit County faces in providing affordable housing.
“The average price of a home in Summit County is just under $500,000,” said SHA Director Gordon Ferris. “A lot of people are priced out of the housing market, but over income for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) programs. The average working family can’t afford to buy a house here. Rent is not cheap either.
“Another very compelling statistic – almost 67 percent of the housing stock is owned by second-home or absentee owners. Our challenge is to create a submarket of housing for locals.”
The high cost of housing, noted Summit County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom, creates a revolving-door syndrome. Employers are constantly training new workers because newcomers can’t afford to stay.
“They can’t afford to buy a house,” Lindstrom said. “They can’t come up with 20 percent because 20 percent of $500,000 is a lot.”
It’s also tough for the county to receive federal housing assistance, Ferris said, because it doesn’t have some of the elements on which such assistance is based.
“A year ago, Summit County had eight people on welfare in the whole county,” he said. “The poorest of the poor – they can’t afford to live up here. They don’t stay up here.
“It’s a challenge because we’re outside the traditional box. When we compete for grant funds, that’s how it’s scored. It doesn’t look like most places.”
Another local challenge, Ferris said, is getting land on which to build affordable housing.
“We would love to see some kind of dialogue with the Forest Service that would set aside (inholdings) for affordable housing,” he told the congressman.
Ferris pointed to the ballot proposal for a sales tax or sales/new construction tax the SHA hopes to put to voters in November. If it’s approved, it should bring the SHA $1.2 million a year.
“That’s what we’re relegated to – asking people to raise their taxes to support affordable housing because we can’t figure out another way to do it,” he said. “We need subsidies over and above the traditional resources.”
Among the ideas that sprang from Friday’s discussion: A possible tax benefit for second homeowners who rent their property when they’re absent, a mechanism for small employers to pay into for housing assistance and discussions with the Forest Service for land exchanges.
“If, in fact, I get hired in the fall, I’ve already done some work to hit the ground running in January,” Udall said.
Udall hopes to succeed Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., who represents Summit voters until the election. Congressional redistricting spurred by the 2000 Census moved Summit County from Colorado’s Third Congressional District to the Second.
If elected, Udall will represent Summit, Boulder, Gilpin, Clear Creek, Grand, Eagle and parts of Jefferson, Weld and Adams counties.
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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