Starr pushes for even more
By Mark Reaman
With the goal to get a quarter of all the houses in the town of Crested Butte deed-restricted, the town reviewed its five-year affordable housing plan last week. The hope is to get about another 50 units constructed in town in the next five years.
Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman led the Town Council through the five-year plan that called for 28 units to be constructed before 2020. The process will start with four duplexes to be constructed this summer.
A lottery will be held in the fall for people interested in obtaining one of the duplexes. Qualified applicants can earn up to two times the Area Median Income (AMI) but the target is to get individuals or families in the 120 percent AMI range. That would currently be about $59,520 annually.
Of the eight new units, two would be rented, while six would be for sale. It is hoped the two-bedroom/two-bath, deed-restricted duplexes can be sold initially for less than $260,000. Yerman said the Re1J school district is interested in acquiring one of the duplexes for school employees. The town will begin reviewing applications received this spring for a fall lottery drawing.
The four lots are being transferred from the town to the Gunnison Valley Rural Housing Authority. One big reason for this is that the GVRHA can help secure a line of credit for construction loans. That line of credit will be ongoing and can then be tapped into by other county entities like the city of Gunnison, the county and Mt. Crested Butte. “It allows a financing stream for construction of new homes in the valley,” Yerman explained.
Yerman said High Mountain Concepts would complete the construction of the duplexes. The town will pay the $144,000 in tap fees and waive the BOZAR review fees to help keep the price down on the units.
Yerman told the Town Council that the overall goal of the town’s affordable housing program was to get active, year-round residents living in town as members of the community. Another goal is to get at least 15 units dedicated for town employees. Currently there are eight such units. Another goal is to partner with local developers to bring rental units online.
Yerman said that in his conversations with local developers, block 76, located next to Rainbow Park, could comfortably accommodate 11 to 14 such rental units on the seven lots with another six units on block 80. The town plans to issue a Request for Qualifications to see if there is interest in building housing on those parcels. Yerman said keeping that numbers range would make it easier for developers to obtain the loans needed to build the structures.
The town is budgeting $15,000 to help offset design costs for developers that might enter the RFQ process. If 20 units were constructed, the town would pick up the $378,000 in tap fees along with $100,000 in infrastructure costs for water and gas lines. The land would be used as collateral for the necessary $4 million to $6 million construction costs and the hope is to break ground in the spring of 2019.
Councilman Will Dujardin pushed to use that land for even denser development, perhaps another Anthracite Place–type building. “If not that, then perhaps four-plexes on each of the seven lots?” asked Dujardin.
Yerman said the town could ask for such ideas in the RFQ but admitted there were issues with such density on that property. “You have to think snow storage and parking and things like the park and places for the families that occupy those units. We want to do it right,” Yerman said.
“If the town of Crested Butte is doing 28 units and the town of Mt. Crested Butte is looking at another 20 units or so in the next 24 months that will open up as many as 48 rentals currently being occupied as well and help relieve some of the rental pressures,” said Yerman.
He also noted that once the Cypress Slate River annexation is completed there will be another acre of land for a potential rental project and that might lend itself to a more dense project.
Addressing the issue of density, Yerman said there are some areas of town, such as Bad Dog Alley and R-4 neighborhoods such as Poverty Gulch, where the density sits at more than ten units an acre. “The town is denser than any municipality in the valley right now,” he said. “The town has, over time, created dense urban neighborhoods. I am comfortable where Crested Butte is as far as density. It is important to build places where people want to live.”
“Seeing this happen over the next four or five years is really exciting,” said councilman Kent Cowherd.
Mayor Jim Schmidt asked if it was possible to require that all bedrooms in deed-restricted units be occupied. Yerman and GVRHA executive director Jennifer Kermode said under federal Fair Housing regulations that was not possible but Kermode said it “could be strongly encouraged.”
“I just hate to see spending public money and not filling all the beds,” said Schmidt.
Longtime affordable housing advocate Jim Starr complimented the council on Crested Butte’s past affordable housing efforts but said new challenges have emerged that called for different action. “You are looking at 50 units but the Needs Assessment report calls for 300 units so you aren’t coming close,” he said. “I’d encourage you to consider PUDs [Planned Unit Developments] to increase the densities. Unless you are building another Anthracite Place on a half acre you won’t meet the needs.
“While the goal of obtaining 25 percent of the housing stock for affordable housing is a worthy goal, the goals used to be closer to 60 percent,” Starr continued. “San Miguel County currently has 33 percent of its units deed-restricted. The town seems to me to be stuck in the quandary of keeping the town the way it is and if we do that it won’t be a town where people live and work. We need density for rental buildings in particular so I urge going for more density instead of following the patterns of the past.”
Yerman said one other goal for 2018 is to pass a regional tax measure through the GVRHA that would raise consistent funding for affordable housing projects throughout the valley. The idea is to get such a measure on the upcoming November ballot.