The Yampa Valley Housing Authority has begun this week to take the community’s temperature on a prospective one mill property tax increase, which it is considering putting before the voters to help narrow the gap between supply and demand for workforce housing.
The Routt County Community Housing Steering Committee sounded the alarm in December 2016, reporting 350 housing units and another 150 beds for seasonal workers are needed just to close the existing shortfall. Steering Committee Chairman Dan Pirrallo implored city and county governments to take action to close that gap by 2030.
No decision to seek voter approval for the tax this November has been made – that won’t come before August, but the Housing Authority has set out to discover what voters think. Their ambition is to build on the success developing The Reserves at Steamboat, a new 48-unit, fully-leased, income-restricted apartment complex on the west side of town that was completed this year.
City Councilwoman Kathi Meyer, who also leads the Housing Authority’s “working team,” said the goal for the property tax, should it go forward, is to create an environment in which the authority can operate in an almost continuous cycle of developing more community housing in the next 10 years or more.
“Our goal, if we have the the funding, is to start one project a year,” Meyer said. “Considering it takes three years from planning to occupying, we’d like to get a pipeline” going.
And on Thursday, the Housing Authority board responded by authorizing Executive Director Jason Peasley to test the public’s enthusiasm for the property tax increase, which would come with a 10-year sunset, that Peasley said should raise between $850,000 and $900,000 annually. He believes that should be enough to leverage between $7.5 and $8 million through public/private partnerships to build more workforce housing units like the new apartments in The Reserves at Steamboat.
“If we price locals out of town, we lose community character and reduce competitiveness (with other resort communities),” Peasley said. “We want to take the project we just built and keep doing that again and again.”
Housing Authority member Catherine Carson, who chairs its funding committee, said her group looked at numerous funding options in its quest to close the gap between supply and demand. The goal was to find a funding source that could provide sustainable and measurable revenue so the Housing Authority would have reliable expectations of how much the tax could deliver to leverage new projects, she said.
“This is a community-wide problem, and it will be a community-wide solution,” she said.
Carson added the committee has heeded the admonition of County Commissioner and Housing Authority member Doug Monger to “not be greedy.” She said an estimate of the tax impact on residential property taxes would be $36 annually per $500,000 of valuation.
Monger said Thursday that he liked the 10-year sunset being considered by the Housing Authority board because it builds taxpayer accountability into the tax measure.
Peasley acknowledged that the goal of building in three-year cycles is aggressive but he welcomes the anxiety level that comes with lofty goals. He is also resolute in his goal of ensuring that the Housing Authority will serve as the property manager of future housing projects it develops to capture the management fees.
Meyer acknowledged the plan presumes it can find land to build on, and she said her committee is already in exploratory talks with property owners. Peasley said he would prefer that the Housing Authority initially tie up land for future projects but not close on the purchase until all of the other elements are in place.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.