Address affordable housing in Grand County sooner rather than later
If resort economies across the state are any indication, the cultural balance follows an arc directly affected by area housing prices.
1. A community forms in a beautiful but remote place. People move there to “get away” or to create a “better life” for themselves.
2. After years of isolation, the community is “discovered” by someone who sees the untapped potential.
3. Building projects are proposed and the resort is slowly developed and marketed.
4. Housing prices begin to rise as outside investors are willing to pay more and more for homes and properties.
5. Wages do not rise along with housing prices.
6. Slowly, the working class is priced out of the area as rents rise to match mortgage costs.
7. The first people to leave are the service workers who exist on the lower end of the pay scale. In most Colorado resort towns, they have been replaced by immigrant labor.
8. The next group of people to leave are the middle class – teachers, police officers and firefighters. Those people are harder to replace.
9. This is usually the point when people start talking about affordable housing, but at this point it’s usually too late for a feasible solution.
Grand County is somewhere in the middle of this process. This beautiful and remote place is no longer immune from the economic tides that have already swept the rest of the Colorado mountain towns.
Fortunately, we can use their hindsight to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen here.
Through affordable housing, we can preserve the fabric of our community’s culture while growing our economy.
Towns such as Granby have taken it upon themselves to solve this problem independently by working with private developers to set aside land for deed-restricted projects or to build at a more affordable density.
But what about the attempts that were previously being made to form a countywide solution?
On Friday, we ran the article, “Towns opting not to fund Housing Authority.”
Kremmling and Hot Sulphur Springs opted not to fund the Grand County Housing Authority this year and Granby opted to partially fund it, considering that they made other arrangements with developers to provide affordable housing.
Grand Lake, Fraser, Winter Park and the Winter Park Resort paid the full amount in compliance with an annual Intergovernmental Agreement.
To cover the shortfall, the county contributed $86,000 in cash, as well as in-kind donations of office space, utilities and phone service.
It’s a story that has been reported year after year. Towns in the west end of the county don’t have the money to spare to fund the Grand County Housing Authority and, if they did, they don’t see that the benefits they receive match the expense.
Obviously, something isn’t working.
If, year after year, the Housing Authority appeals to the same towns to get the same answer ” “no” ” the Intergovernmental Agreement to keep a countywide housing entity alive has expired.
The wheels came off this agreement long ago, but the bus is still on the road.
Even though affordable housing hasn’t affected the entire county equally, it’s only a matter of time before the squeeze from Summit and Routt counties on one end and the Fraser Valley on the other pushes housing prices up.
It’s time the entire county invested in the Grand County Housing Authority or it’s time to re-examine the Intergovernmental Agreement, and the authority’s scope and budget, so it can move forward in a productive way, without having to turn to the county to pad its coffers.
Affordable housing may not have become a crisis for this county yet, but if the rest of Colorado is any indication, it’s right around the corner.
Better to fix this bus’s flat tire before we really need it to get us somewhere.
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