RTA continues to add to workforce housing stock for employees

Units not filled but looking to the future

By Mark Reaman

With the intention of working on the long game, the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) continues to add to its stock of workforce housing units. The organization last week closed on two more units in Gunnison’s Lazy K development, a two-bedroom and a three-bedroom townhouse. The RTA already owns a five-plex in the development and also owns a condo in Crested Butte.

Vice president of Operations for Alpine Express Jon Galle said that two of its units are currently occupied and two more are lined up to be filled after the renters complete their Commercial Drivers License (CDL) training to enable them to start work for Alpine, which operates the RTA bus system in the valley. 

“Acquiring these units is a long-term solution, not a short-term fix,” RTA executive director Scott Truex reminded the board at its March 24 meeting.

“As we continue to accumulate housing, it will be nice to have the conversation on how we manage it long term,” said RTA board member Liz Smith. “Perhaps we build in incentives for long-term service to the RTA. Maybe we create pathways for rent-to-own opportunities or figure out a down payment assistance program. Lazy K was originally intended for people to purchase the units so having the RTA get the units and get people in there is great, but what is our role with housing in the bigger picture?” Smith asked.

“I like the idea of somehow setting up a down payment assistance program. We need to think it all the way through and be aware of unintended consequences,” said Truex. “It would be good to talk to the [Gunnison Valley] hospital and see how they are approaching it since I think they have more than 40 units now.”

“We need to be careful that we don’t get in a situation where we don’t have a place for our drivers to live,” said RTA board chair Janet Farmer.

“There is a tension there, right,” said RTA board member Laura Puckett Daniels. “You don’t want people to be trapped in their jobs and miserable, and if their only way to live here is through that job, that isn’t ideal. I see housing assistance as a way to go up the ladder and a way to attract people. We need to balance the concerns as we go forward in creative ways.”

“Not all of the Lazy K units we own are occupied right now, but it isn’t about the short-term or next season,” reiterated Truex. “The RTA in 10 years will be thanking us for doing this.”

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