Officials discuss west-end housing

City and county officials focused on affordable housing Monday during a review of a plan for development west of Steamboat Springs.

The West Steamboat Springs Area Plan was adopted in 1999; no annexation proposals have come through since. In response, city and county planners drafted a more flexible update in hopes of luring developers.

During most of Monday's meeting, City Council members and Routt County commissioners focused on the plan's affordable housing requirement.

Planners worked with Yampa Valley Housing Authority officials to reduce the requirement from 33 percent to 15 percent.

The requirement means that those who build residential developments must make 15 percent of the units affordable based on households' income levels.

The 33 percent goal was meant to meet what officials call "catch up" for the city's need for affordable housing. The 15 percent goal is called "keep up" because it will meet the ongoing demand but will not make up retroactively for the lack of affordable housing.

Towny Anderson, who took seat on City Council in November, asked officials to acknowledge that, by changing the housing requirement, they are changing the goal instead of addressing the reasons that the former goal didn't work.

"We did not review and revise elements that contributed to the failure," Anderson said.

John Eastman, county planner, disagreed. He said that planners took a careful look at the reasons the 33 percent goal did not work.

The update also proposed that the city and county share the cost of providing affordable housing in the west of Steamboat area by purchasing land.

Anderson said that if the two governments start purchasing land on which to build affordable housing, it would increase the likelihood of "ghettos." He later defined a ghetto as a homogeneous neighborhood in which residents' incomes are similar.

Commissioner Nancy Sta--hoviak told Anderson that current projects show that integrating market-rate units with affordable housing is possible.

"You can build affordable housing developments and build it in a way that's good," Stahoviak said.

Officials agreed to remove the wording in the update that discusses the purchase of land. Stahoviak said she wanted to keep the county's and city's options for providing affordable housing open.

"It's not always writing a check that will make it happen," she said. "I don't think we should be tying ourselves down."

Stahoviak spoke in support of the 15 percent requirement, stating that it was not fair to ask developers to play catch-up with an affordable housing problem that has been around for a long time.

Commissioner Doug Monger also spoke in support of the 15 percent requirement. He said the 33 percent requirement was a "cop-out" because officials were passing a responsibility on to developers.

"I'm very comfortable with that being removed," Monger said.

Stahoviak said that the goal of providing affordable housing west of Steamboat is to prevent the sprawl of development in outlying areas such as Oak Creek and Hayden.

County Planning Director Caryn Fox agreed with Sta--hoviak. She said she didn't think that the alteration of the affordable housing requirement changed any of the plan's basic goals.

"I don't think anything has changed," Fox said. "I don't think any of the policies are being lost here."

--o reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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