Summit Daily editorial: 5A is essential tool in addressing housing crisis
Teachers, firefighters, police officers, grocery store managers, journalists, you name it — working-class folks cannot afford to live in Summit County.
Sure, we make it work somehow. Because we love living in the mountains, we take on multiple jobs, forgo putting money in savings and pay more in rent than is wise. Some of us commute from Park or Lake counties. Some of us luck out and get a top spot on the waiting list for the small number of deed-restricted homes or condos available.
It is not an overstatement to say that Summit County is in housing crisis. Locals cannot afford to buy homes here, rent is far beyond 30 percent of the average take-home pay and there simply aren’t enough rentals to go around. We’re all in a brutal, Hunger Games-like game of musical chairs.
And not all of us make it. Many of us — sometimes the best us — leave. This constant churn is a burden on our business owners, our economy and our neighborhoods.
When it comes to housing, many of who choose to stay in Summit grow used to moving from one place to the next, often living with roommates in improvised living arrangements.
This editorial writer has lived in three places (Silverthorne, Breckenridge and now Frisco) in the past 3 years. It’s a story we’ve all heard again and again: You find a great place for you and your family, and then boom — the market gets hot, the owner sells it and gives you 30 days to pull up stakes.
This isn’t really a surprise, though. It’s simple economics. When the vast majority of homes are owned by people who live outside of the county, things will get weird for the locals who make the community function. The free market, left to its own devices, will never address this issue.
No, to really solve this problem, we must support government initiatives to create and subsidize workforce housing. That’s why the Summit Daily is urging you to vote “yes” on Summit County’s ballot measure 5A — a 0.125-percent sales and use tax that has already funded several affordable housing initiatives since voters authorized it in 2006.
Our economy has rebounded greatly since the Great Recession. That means property values have recovered and then some. That’s a double-edged sword, though. An improved economy means more vacations and more vacation homes. It means fewer long-term rentals. It means fewer homes for full-time residents.
Summit County and its towns, particularly Breckenridge, have worked diligently to address the workforce housing issue, but it is a very expensive problem. Summit County manager Gary Martinez recently explained that the Lake Hill affordable housing project along the Dam Road will require nearly $10 million in land purchasing and site improvements before a developer can come in and build housing units.
Our county and towns must have a reliable source of revenue to make housing projects a reality.
Since 2007, 5A has generated more than $13 million in revenue that has gone to purchase and develop land for our workforce. More than 335 housing units have been created. The Summit Combine Housing Authority, which is funded in part by 5A, has helped more than 2,000 people find and afford housing and has positively impacted more than 307 businesses throughout the county.
So much work is left to be done. Silverthorne, for example, used 5A money to purchase Smith Ranch and set aside those 52 acres for a workforce housing project. The town, however, will need far more funding to make the project a reality. Breckenridge has plans to spend around $48 million over the next 8-10 years to create 285 housing units.
It is essential we give our local governments the tools they need to keep Summit County a true, authentic community.
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