Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Housing Authority plugs away in 2019 despite failure of 6A

Numerous affordable housing projects in the works

By Cayla Vidmar

The recent failure of ballot initiative 6A, which was intended to provide a steady stream of revenue for local affordable housing through a property tax; the five new affordable housing projects being worked on in 2019; and the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA) looking to add a developer to the team were all discussion points at last week’s public housing forum held to discuss a long-term housing plan for the valley.

Of the dozen people who attended the meeting held in Crested Butte South on December 5, some were current long-time locals looking for purchasing opportunities, while others owned their homes but were concerned with the housing issue for the community as a whole.

Despite not receiving a “dedicated funding stream” from 6A, GVRHA executive director Jennifer Kermode spoke to the numerous affordable housing projects being worked on in 2019. The projects, which include Paradise Park, Homestead and Stallion Park in the north valley, Lazy K, and Lot 22 in Gunnison, will potentially bring 170 affordable homes into the valley. The projects are in various stages of development, and not all will be built out in 2019.

“It’s not like nothing is going to happen because 6A didn’t pass. We will have projects happening in 2019,” Kermode assured the crowd.

Kermode writes via email that “All the homes in Paradise Park, Stallion Park and Homestead are to be deed restricted,” while noting, “Some of the homes in Lazy K and Lot 22 could be [free] market homes to reduce subsidies needed to make the rest of them affordable.”

Kermode notes, “The current list of projects will meet about 20 percent of the total 960 homes identified by the Housing Needs Assessment” as needed in the valley by 2020.

Despite 6A not passing in the general election in 2018, Kermode is optimistic about another go in 2019. “It’s not unusual for these initiatives to go to the voters at least twice, so hopefully we’ll put this on the ballot again in 2019,” she said. The ballot initiative would have increased property taxes, with revenues earmarked for affordable housing projects in the valley. “So whether we need to have more messaging or different messaging or more specifics on where dollars go, although that gets tricky, we’re going to work those details out in the next month or two, so that in 2019 we’ll be hitting the ground running,” continued Kermode.

Willa Williford, the workforce housing consultant for GVRHA, spoke to a need that was brought up in previous meetings: development expertise. “We need more in-house development expertise,” Williford said, “We’re planners, we’re not developers, so that’s something that Jennifer can hire or contract out.”

Kermode says, “Ideally the Housing Authority would have an employee who can act more like an ‘owner’s rep’ for our members to assist in future developments.” This person, Kermode explains, would be responsible for seeing a project through to the end and looking out for the GVRHA’s interest, particularly when there are public benefits and money invested in a project.

Included in the presentation was a graph showing what the city of Gunnison, Crested Butte, Gunnison County and Mt. Crested Butte had in their tool box for affordable housing. Crested Butte town councilman Chris Haver said compiling this data and presenting it to the various councils acted as a sort of motivator to encourage the communities to jump on board with new ideas. “Seeing what each community is doing helps spur each community to look into new opportunities that they might not have thought of,” says Haver.

Of the 17 “housing tools,” ranging from land banking to redevelopment incentives, the town of Crested Butte checked the most boxes, followed closely by the city of Gunnison. “Crested Butte started to look further into ways to expedite the BOZAR process for affordable housing after learning that Gunnison offered this incentive,” says Haver.

Questions from the audience included whether or not Vail had been contacted to help with the housing need. Kermode said she had reached out to the new Crested Butte Mountain Resort general manager Tim Baker, but “I imagine he’s still drinking from the fire hose, but I’m hoping to see how they can come to the table for this discussion.”

For now, Kermode writes, “Without a dedicated funding stream, we can work with the communities on the current projects [listed above], but then we need to find more land to build on.”

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