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County proposes changes to linkage fees

Fees increased last in 2012

by Kristy Acuff

The Gunnison County Commissioners and the staff of the economic development department discussed increasing workforce housing linkage fees by 5 to 7 percent at Tuesday’s commissioner work session. The county has not updated the fees since 2012 and since then, the affordability gap has grown across the county while the area median income (AMI) has fallen.

The workforce housing linkage fees are used to build or acquire new affordable housing across the county and to support first-time homebuyer programs and assist with financing essential housing developments. The fees apply to new construction over 500 square feet and are based on the square footage of the building as well as a variable mitigation rate determined by the impact of the construction on area employment.

“The affordability gap continues to grow while the AMI has gone down,” said Cathie Pagano, director of economic development. “In 2001, the gap was $111,569 and it is now $126,461.”

Essentially, the gap measures the difference between what a person earning the AMI can afford to pay for a house and what the market for such a house actually costs.

The fees for commercial building would increase to $1,901 from $1,785 per 1,000 square feet. A 4,050-square-foot residential building would incur fees of $8,601, up from $8,140 under the proposed changes.

“I understand the need for these fees, but have we considered increasing the minimum square footage to 1,500 square feet so we do not put an undue burden on our citizens looking to build?” asked commissioner John Messner.

“Anyone earning up to 120 percent of the AMI is exempt from this fee,” said assistant director of economic development Neal Starkebaum. “So we have protections in place for those people looking to build.” He added that the fee for a 1,500-square-foot residence is $480.

“Contextually, our workforce linkage fees are not very high and they do generate an important revenue for affordable housing,” added county manager Matthew Birnie.

In addition to the exemptions for income, building permits for affordable housing projects are also exempt from the workforce linkage fees.

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