Saying collaboration is key, officials in Winter Park, Fraser set stage to join forces on workforce housing
Fraser and Winter Park are contemplating a regional housing authority and could bring a ballot question to voters as soon as next year.
At a joint work session on Thursday, workforce housing was the main topic for the town boards. Specifically, staff from both towns asked elected leaders if they should pursue a multi-jurisdictional housing authority, that would cover the same boundaries as the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District.
In the timeline presented, the boards would sign a memorandum of understanding next month showing a partnership on affordable housing and adopting a strategic plan.
The long-term goal would be to establish a regional housing authority separate from the towns. However, the memorandum would also outline some short-term solutions, such as making town codes friendlier to affordable housing projects and ways for the towns to work together.
“Everybody in this room has to be 100% behind every local housing project that’s being built,” Fraser Trustee Parnell Quinn said.
Furthermore, the memorandum would lay out a plan to reassess housing needs for the entire Fraser Valley. Winter Park’s most recent housing study was done in 2015, while Fraser’s was conducted in 2016.
“I know nobody’s excited about additional studies that don’t necessarily get on the ground and start solving the problem,” Winter Park Assistant Manager Alisha Janes said. “But I think instead of just thinking about it as just taking an additional housing study, thinking about it as a first approach in the collaboration and seeing it as a first step to make this future endeavor successful.”
According to the timeline, the study would be completed in November, and the boards could move to create a multi-jurisdictional housing authority by January. Then work would be directed toward a ballot initiative for November 2022 to secure a sustainable funding source.
At the beginning, Fraser and Winter Park would commit $75,000 each to a seed fund that would ideally cover the housing needs study, the creation of the authority and the costs associated with a ballot initiative. There would also be staff dedicated to form a working group on this project.
By combining forces, the towns would likely find greater success getting competitive Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and, through a pooling of resources, be able to pursue larger development projects.
The Winter Park town board highlighted the conversations its members had with representatives of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, which has built a number of affordable housing projects in Steamboat Springs and surrounding areas. Since voters passed a mil levy for affordable housing in 2017, the authority has built nearly 300 units of affordable, attainable housing in Steamboat.
Staff highlighted the fact that, in addition to more funding opportunities, creating a separate entity for housing would help remove the burden on the town boards and staffs.
“We’ve had some conversations in our board of ‘How did we get into the housing business?’” Winter Park Mayor Pro Tem Mike Periolat said. “I thought we were doing safety and streets and all those things. Now we’re in housing, trying to sell those housing projects. That’s great. We gotta step up and do it, but it really would be nice to have this entity that we support instead.”
If all goes according to plan and voters pass the potential 2022 ballot initiative, the Fraser Valley regional housing authority would still not see a stream of revenue until 2023 at the earliest.
“We’re looking at a two to three year period maybe before a potential countywide or rec district project comes to fruition,” Winter Park Mayor Nick Kutrumbos said, adding that if affordable housing opportunities come up before then, the towns should still push for them.
“We need to do stuff now,” he said.
Grand County Manager Ed Moyer, Granby Mayor Josh Hardy and Granby Town Manager Ted Cherry also attended the joint meeting.
Moyer said that could not speak for county commissioners, but he suggested the scope of a multi-jurisdictional housing authority could be expanded to include other jurisdictions in Grand County as well.
“We’ve been discussing with a law firm about cost estimates for what that scope of work would look like for putting together a multi-jurisdictional housing authority including more than just the two towns,” Moyer said. “We have the initial draft of that now, but again I think there’s more discussion to happen.”
The Fraser and Winter Park representatives agreed that this long-term plan wouldn’t fix the housing crisis in the valley, adding that housing is still a problem in Steamboat even with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. They said other factors impacting housing would still need to be addressed.
The town boards gave direction to their staff to continue work on the memorandum of understanding and multi-jurisdictional housing authority. No decisions were made, but the memorandum could come to boards for approval as soon as October.
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Grand County voters will be deciding on a number of issues this November from tax increases to school board memberships. Ballots were mailed out last week and Election Day is Nov. 2.