Opinion | Susan Knopf: We need new affordable housing choices | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: We need new affordable housing choices

Susan Knopf
For the Record

“Hours and hours of work and advocacy” went into the Affordable Housing Task Force report, according to state Rep. Dylan Roberts.

The report was published last week and will serve as a template for legislation.

Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue served on a subpanel. Roberts chaired the task force.

Roberts called the economic opportunity “once in a generation.”

The task force is recommending how the state should distribute $400 million in federal COVID-19 funds.

If you felt like the COVID-19 money never quite found its way to your town, you’re right. But you might like our elected leaders’ proposals. One idea: Create financial reserves — not just a government dole — for a government loan program that funds projects again and again.

The task force proposes the Legislature allocate:

  • $150 million to a self-renewing loan fund for maintenance and development of workforce housing
  • $150 million to direct grants to nonprofits and local governments to fund workforce housing projects
  • $40 million to innovative housing and to incentivize modular housing projects and contractors
  • $35 million to resident-owned communities, mobile home parks and land banking
  • $25 million to Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for the Middle-Income Access Program to help with down payments and rent subsidies

These recommendations are moving toward becoming legislation. Now is the time to tell your state representatives your thoughts and dreams for affordable housing projects.

Roberts is running to be our next state senator in our newly redrawn senate district.

“I’m going to do everything I can … to make transformational housing changes that will last for years to come … so everybody has a safe and affordable place to call home,” Roberts told me.

Pogue said we need “stable and sustainable housing to maintain our workforce; the workforce maintains the economy. … What I hear from people is we need lower income rental housing — that type of housing is higher density.”

Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence agrees: “We’re going to have to go more dense.”

Density has not been popular in Summit County. I have personally protested increasing density. But I know my electrician is struggling to find workers, and part of that is the cost of housing.

“The only sustainable housing solution will come from finding new solutions,” Pogue said.

Lawrence agrees. “I’d like to see co-living situations, where everybody gets their own bedroom and bath, and they share kitchen and other facilities,” she said.

One of the newest hotels in Silverthorne has provided a kind of inspiration to look at habitation in a new way. The Pad has every accommodation from private suites to shared rooms to dorm sleeper compartments in a large common area. All of it is under one roof with different guests co-mingling.

It’s a timely idea.

“We’re rethinking workforce housing, density and affordable housing,” Commissioner Josh Blanchard said.

All three commissioners touted the Alpine Inn master lease project, which converted hotel rooms to workforce housing. They think that is a model the county can replicate.

Pogue said she’s always looking for new housing models that will work in Summit County. All three commissioners said they are looking to partner with businesses, towns, state and federal governments to make more workforce housing available.

For the record, the Lake Hill project outside of Frisco is likely more than a decade away with additional water, sewage and transportation infrastructure improvements needed before breaking ground.

Pogue talked about the 52 units at the Justice Center parcel and 47 units at Wintergreen Phase II in Keystone. Those will offer more workforce housing in the next two years. A 2020 report found we are short 2,400 workforce housing units.

We’re not going to build our way out of this in the next two years. The county received a grant to scrub codes and zoning restrictions to be more friendly to those who want to be more creative in their approach to workforce housing.

Perhaps a moratorium on some rules. It’s a crisis. We’re probably not going regulate our way out of it.

Better planning will help the future. The Summit School District Board of Education is finally considering using the old Silverthorne Elementary site, across from the Post Office, as an affordable housing site. It’s in a workforce housing neighborhood and close to the transportation hub. This could help the school district attract candidates.

What if that project was a place that offered different kinds of habitations? One-bedroom apartments and co-living could be in one building.

We need to think out of the box. Former Silverthorne Mayor Bruce Butler said it best, “We need to house all our demographics.”

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