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Crested Butte looking for more regional affordable housing projects

Looking for reliable funding source

by Mark Reaman

Crested Butte town planner Michael Yerman recently updated the Town Council on its current affordable housing efforts, and one takeaway was that the council would like a more regional, collaborative approach.

Yerman outlined some projects that are in the works at a February work session, including a Crested Butte Community School student-build project on one of the town’s deed-restricted micro lots. The students are designing and will build the 1,000-square-foot home that will eventually be rented to a town employee.

There are six locals preparing to build homes this coming summer on other deed-restricted lots in blocks 79 and 80 in the northeast side of town. While the departure of former Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority executive director Karl Fulmer has delayed some affordable housing projects, the town is actively assisting in seeking his replacement.

The town is submitting a grant application with Colorado Creative Industries for a so-called “Space to Create” project that could bring a major project to an acre of land that would be included with a possible annexation with Cypress Foothills on the north side of Crested Butte.

And the town is working on two duplex projects in partnership with the Gunnison school district and Mountain Express to provide housing for “essential service workers” in the community. Those could be built in 2018 and would likely provide two units for teachers, one for a town employee and another for a Mountain Express worker.

Finally, the town is investigating the beginning phase of getting some affordable housing on the 17-acre parcel located at the intersection of Highway 135 and Brush Creek Road.

While outlining affordable housing goals, Yerman said one lofty goal was to build 50 more units of affordable housing in town in the next five to seven years. That would make about 25 percent of the town housing stock deed-restricted for locals. “That is a big one and we want to make sure the council is on board,” he said. They appeared to be.

Mayor Glenn Michel said one objective he would like to see added to the list was “more regional collaboration as part of the goals. The county and Mt. Crested Butte have to be on this journey with us. The town cannot do it all alone.”

Yerman agreed that was important and would include it in the list of stated goals.

He also said the partnership with the community school was a great project that could be extended to other micro lots. “They have a great team of professionals from the community assisting them but the students are really driving the project,” Yerman told the council. “We hope to continue this program into the future. There are two more micro lots out there. It has been really cool and we will end up with a good product that will be rented by a town employee.”

“Is there a chance to do more micro lots in town down the road?” asked Michel. “We are hearing people really want micro lots and small houses. They are sort of the future. Are we looking at more?”

“We have learned a lot about micro lots. No one here is building a tiny home. They’re great for Tucson where you can open the doors and expand the space,” responded Yerman. “Here, with all the snow like we have seen this year and the cold, living in 400 square feet might make people start living at Kochevar’s every night. And we’ve found that once people are in a space, they stay there even if the family grows. I’m starting to agree with [councilman] Jim [Schmidt] and see the drawbacks of a tiny house in this environment with all the needed storage for toys, the parking issues, the snow storage elements. It is looking best to construct duplex and triplex units, given the demands of things like storage.”

The 17-acre Brush Creek parcel seems to hold potential bang for the buck and could be suited for a public-private partnership. The four owners—Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte, Gunnison County and Crested Butte Mountain Resort—are looking to put out a request for qualifications to see if developers are interested in helping with a project.

“Once we see if there are qualified developers, we’ll ask them to submit a request for proposals,” explained Yerman. “The developers would be responsible for the master planning and Land Use Resolution approvals through the county. We will keep the council informed with any progress.”

“All of these projects require money,” noted Michel. “We need liquidity to go forward with the projects. We need more revenue streams. It seems like we need a new regional revenue source for this issue.”

“That is being contemplated with the county commissioners and housing authority but it would take a vote of the whole county,” said Yerman.

The Town Council and county commissioners are planning a joint meeting on March 28 to discuss that issue (along with several others).

Yerman also informed the council that since 1991 the town has contributed $2.4 million in tap fees to protect deed-restricted housing.

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