Community members debate Proposition 6A at candidate forum
As election day draws closer, affordable housing is a main priority in many local voters’ minds. Most Grand County residents agree more affordable housing needs to be developed, but they are divided on how to fund that development. Proposition 6A seeks to raise property taxes for homeowners in the Fraser River Valley Housing Partnership area to generate this funding. The ballot initiative has generated lots of debate in the community, including during Granby’s Nonpartisan Candidate Forum on Oct. 17.
The Fraser River Valley Housing Partnership is a new entity and still in the early stages of securing funding. Formed in April, it includes the Grand County Board of Commissioners and the towns of Granby, Fraser and Winter Park, and incorporated Grand County, including Tabernash. As an intergovernmental agency, the partnership is run by community members appointed by the towns and Grand County.
The initiative asks voters if they support a 2-mill property tax to create a dedicated $1.2 million annual funding source for affordable housing in the partnership’s boundaries. Only residents who live in this boundary can vote on it.
During Granby’s candidate forum, two community members represented the different opinions on 6A. Ed Raegner told the audience why he supports the proposition, and Hopper Becker explained why he opposes it.
Speaking in favor of 6A
Raegner, who is president of the East Grand School District School Board, spoke to the audience first. He explained why he thinks some complaints against 6A are not valid.
“People say this tax doesn’t impact second-home owners, (but) 67% of those impacted by this increase are not local residents,” he said.
Raegner added that lack of affordable housing is not merely a resort-centric issue.
“The last 12 months, Granby has issued almost double the amount of building permits as Winter Park and Fraser towns combined. … Year-to-date, Granby has collected just about double the amount of sales tax collected in 2019. This is a Granby problem.”
Raegner said rising housing costs hurt businesses in a domino effect. Since locals pay more for housing, businesses must pay higher wages or risk those employees leaving.
“If you hate it when your favorite restaurant or store shuts down because it’s understaffed, vote yes on 6A. If you’re concerned about the rise in prices for goods and services … vote yes on 6A. If you want your friends to be able to find a reasonable place to live in Grand County, vote yes on 6A. I have a 16-year-old daughter so this is very, very important to me — if you have children and you want them to live in Grand County and not live in your house forever, please vote yes on 6A,” Raegner said, as he closed his remarks.
Speaking against 6A
Speaking next, Becker said that taxing residents right out of the gate didn’t seem like the best funding option.
“In my opinion, there’s other, better ways to fund this crisis we’ve gotten ourselves into,” he said. “I work for a public utility; I don’t make a ton of money. I spend a fair amount on raising my two daughters and paying my mortgage and all that fun stuff, so the idea of a tax increase is a bit hard to swallow.”
Becker questioned why locals had to bear the brunt of funding the partnership when the problem of affordable housing was not caused by the community but by outside developers and wealthy second-home owners who operate short-term rentals. He added that the partnership should look towards other sources of funding, such as a fee on developers, or requiring developers to build a certain number of affordable housing units within each development.
Answering moderator questions
Destination Granby board member Nicole Schafer, who was moderating the talk, then asked both speakers what funding sources they’d like to see the partnership pursue if 6A did not pass.
“I think there are many we things we can look at besides a tax,” Becker responded. “Whether it be assigning a fee to (a short-term rental), assigning a tax to a development, or asking for additional infrastructure to be put in by somebody who wants to put in, you know, 30 condos.”
He added that he’s not aware of all options, but “we have great elected officials that are there working at our behest that are smart and they can figure that out.”
Raegner countered that short-term rentals in Grand County can’t be taxed to fund affordable housing. Currently, money raised from taxing short-term rentals must be spent on marketing. However, this can be changed — a new state law will allow county commissioners to tax short-term rentals to fund affordable housing or other areas with voter approval, which he would be in favor of.
“That will require a countywide measure, which is not on the ballot this year, you would have to vote for that,” said Raegner.
Schafer then asked if Raegner and Becker believed Ballot 6A would alleviate the housing crisis if it passed.
Raegner stated that the partnership was in a good position because they could learn from other partnerships that increased property taxes to fund housing. One such example is the Yampa Valley Housing Authority in Routt County.
“We’re way behind a lot of the other places development-wise,” he said. “There’s lot of models out there, lots of communities that have already addressed the housing issue. I can tell you this — that not addressing the housing issue is really a suicide mission.”
Becker spoke next, reflecting on the failure of other entities to address the housing crisis.
“You look at other communities that have done this — some are successful, some are not. I look at our own community, Grand County,” he said. “I believe we have a housing authority, but you wouldn’t know it, because we’re in this crisis. So that obviously is not working, and they’ve got a heck of a lot more money than this new authority will have.”
Becker concluded by expressing cautious optimism of the new partnership.
“It might take some time … but if this passes, it will probably work. Like I said, we’ve got good people in government here that — taxes or not ‚ they’re doing a good job and they’re going to do their best to represent us, the constituents. I don’t like taxes, but I’m not terribly concerned if something happens,” he said.
Voting day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. To learn more about Ballot Issue 6A and the Housing Partnership ahead of the election, visit FRVHP.com or HousingForLocals.com.
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