Addressing affordability: Winter Park has a plan for affordable housing as development booms across area
Winter Park development, major projectsARROW35 townhomesCommercial space: 21,000 square feetLocation: Lion’s Gate Drive & Vasquez Creek ROAM1,016 residential unitsCommercial space: 72,000 square feetLocation: South of downtown Winter Park on the east side of Highway 40 HIDEAWAY STATION58 condominiums$550k+Commercial space: 12,000 square feetLocation: 78355 Main St, Winter Park COYOTE CREEK49 townhomes$300-400kLocation: 501 County Rd. 514, Tabernash FIRESIDE CREEK60 townhomes HIDEAWAY JUNCTION10 single-family homes, 41 planned addition$220-250kLocation: Lion’s Gate Drive & King’s Crossing
In an effort to address the high demand for housing, several new developments are bringing various forms of housing to Winter Park, but few of them are planning to offer affordable units. Still, town officials say there is a plan in place.
Just under 1,200 new units, including condominiums, single-family homes and townhomes, will be added to the area across several different private developments, including the Roam development, Arrow at Winter Park, Hideaway Station and Coyote Creek in Tabernash.
Developers agree that the demand for housing, not just affordable units, has been overwhelming in the Winter Park area.
“I think that Winter Park is experiencing such an explosion in summer visits, that I think (the development) is just going to fill a void of new faces and new businesses,” said Jason Ahlers, a developer at Arrow at Winter Park.
Ahlers said they have heard positive feedback from the community for helping provide needed services.
Between Arrow, Roam and Hideaway Station, the developments will also offer about 105,000 square feet of commercial space. Jeff Vogel, a principal on the massive Roam development, which will offer the most commercial space of any new development at 72,000 square feet, said the development will aid in job creation and benefit the community’s economy.
“The Roam project is a natural addition and connection to the downtown core,” Vogel said. “I think the town’s very excited about it because of all the things it’s going to include in terms of job creation, providing a variety of housing. I think it will complement and enhance the downtown core.”
A NEED FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Of the major projects, Hideaway Station is the only new development so far to offer affordable units. The 38 apartments at Hideaway Place have already been built and filled as part of phase one for the Hideaway Station development. A majority of those units are rented at 60 percent of the average median income to be considered affordable, others are rented at market rate.
Chip Besse, a principal on the development, said Hideaway Place helped set a positive tone for public-private partnerships with the town to create affordable housing.
No units in the Arrow or Roam developments are specifically designated as affordable. The two instead have an agreement with Winter Park to contribute to its affordable housing fund through a .5 percent real estate transfer assessment each time a unit is sold. All new developments also have to pay a 1 percent real estate transfer tax, which goes into the town’s general fund.
Winter Park Mayor Jimmy Lahrman and John Crone, housing manager for Winter Park, said the money constitutes an impact fee since the developments have a large effect on the town’s infrastructure, such as on the road and sanitation systems. They said they wanted it to be a fair fee since the developments ultimately help the town grow.
“There’s an impact every time the town grows and the town grows when sales are done,” Lahrman said. “So that real estate transfer tax just tried to offset some of those impacts.”
Lahrman said the agreements benefit the town because they help provide a sustainable funding source for the affordable housing fund and allows the town to make the best decisions for building more affordable units.
“The (real estate transfer assessment) currently is the cleanest, easiest and probably the best solution because it addresses (housing funding) into perpetuity,” Lahrman said.
There are currently about 200 families on the town of Winter Park’s waiting list for affordable housing, according to Crone. The town has several developments in the works to meet the demands of the community, including expanding the Hideaway Junction neighborhood, building a new townhome neighborhood and working with Winter Park Resort to provide units for seasonal employees.
These units are especially important since the larger Grand County area saw a 22 percent decrease in affordability compared to last year, according to the Grand County Board of Realtors.
“The real nice thing is, as we move on, it’s just going to become more affordable because we will not be driven, like most landlords, when the market allows it to just bump up the rent,” Crone said.
So far, the Hideaway Place apartments provides affordable housing for 78 local residents. Crone said the development has already seen people moving out and into market housing, which demonstrates the success of the project.
“The whole idea is not just to warehouse workers, but to make those workers part of the community,” Crone said.
The Hideaway Junction expansion will include 41 new single family homes and the town is hoping to add around 60 new townhomes with the Fireside Creek development. The Dimmit II development, which is being done in partnership with Winter Park Resort for their winter seasonal workers, will offer 27 units, but is currently stalled while the resort looks for a partner to sublease the units in the summer.
Lahrman said seasonal employee housing is important because it’s the first step in making people part of the community.
“This product doesn’t currently exist in our community, where a seasonal or transitional employee can come in and their employer can provide them with a housing option,” he said.
Ultimately the goal is to provide affordable housing across multiple different needs, from seasonal housing to apartments to family homes, so that local residents can stay in the community, Lahrman confirmed.
“What the (town) council has identified is there are four distinct products that are necessary to ladder up in attainable housing,” he said. “So the bottom level is I have a job and a place to live, the second tier is now I’m part of the community. The third tier is I’ve stayed a number of years and I’d like to purchase a place. So, as you move through the community then those products are available for you to stay.”
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