Winter Park to broaden workforce housing approach
Following last year’s roughly $4 million spending on workforce housing, Winter Park is poised to invest at least another $3 million this year, prioritizing its Hideaway Junction and Fireside Creek developments, as well as the creation of a regional housing authority.
Construction on Hideaway Junction and Fireside Creek is actively working to get infrastructure in the ground and move forward on buildings as quickly as possible. The Hideaway Junction neighborhood is getting 20 new deed-restricted single family homes and Fireside Creek will bring 50 apartments with restricted rent.
Winter Park Assistant Town Manager Alisha Janes said the Fireside Creek project will hopefully be completed in early 2023, while vertical construction for the Hideaway Junction homes is planned for this summer.
“We’re anticipating releasing the request for proposals (for Hideaway Junction) very soon to be able to award those by spring,” Janes said. “We’re prioritizing the projects that bring a major amount of units.”
Over 500 people signed up for the town’s workforce housing waitlist in 2021 and Janes said over 100 people applied for a rental unit in the Hideaway Place apartments, which is pushing the town to meet housing needs.
The town council already dedicated $1.27 million in 2021 to buy down rents at Fireside Creek and ensure the units will range from 80-120% Area Median Income levels. Another $1.6 million will go to Hideaway Junction construction and neighborhood improvements this year.
On top of its own projects, the town is also in the works to create a regional housing authority with Fraser, Granby and Grand County, which will plan and fund larger projects. Each town is planning to contribute $50,000 and the county is giving $10,000 to the formation of the housing authority.
Once the authority is formalized, the goal is to ask voters within the authority’s district to approve a tax or mill levy to pay for future projects.
The housing authority will also likely conduct a housing study to quantify the exact needs of the area. Winter Park is hoping to use this information, in conjunction with conversations with developers and homeowners, when updating a number of policies this year.
Janes named a few areas that will be reviewed in the upcoming months, such as the town’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) policy, deed restrictions and development fees.
When it comes to ADUs, the town’s current policy is restrictive because it requires the entire property be deed restricted in order to construct an ADU.
“Clearly, we haven’t had a lot of success with that policy the way it’s written, so reconsidering that, we’re hopeful, could give us a handful of additional units,” Janes said.
Conversations with homeowners and developers have also indicated that there’s a lot of interest in a Winter Park deed-restriction program.
“We’ve advanced the conversation far enough now that it’s not just developers wanting to build on town-owned property, but it’s developers building a private project looking for a way the town can partner with them to build that housing into the project,” Winter Park Town Manager Keith Riesberg said. “Developers recognize they can be a part of working with us to solve the problem.”
By addressing policy to make workforce and affordable housing projects easier, Riesberg said the town is hoping to expand its public-private partnerships to make the most out of existing resources.
Already, Winter Park is partnering with Winter Park Partners, LLC for the Fireside Creek project and Riesberg added the town hopes to work closely with Winter Park Resort for any workforce housing the ski area might build.
“From the town’s perspective we’ve expressed a willingness, if we need to adjust some of our development standards — lot coverage, unit density, parking — we’re willing to work with them to get a project moving forward,” Riesberg said.
With projects lined up to aid the long-term housing situation in the area, Winter Park still maintains some money for short-term solutions to the housing crisis, such as the Short-Term Fix program the town rolled out last year.
The program paid short-term rental owners to convert their spaces into six-month or year-long leases for local workers and resulted in 47 bedrooms this season.
Janes noted that the Short-Term Fix program was successful in targeting the winter influx of workers ahead of the ski season, so the town is considering a second round of grants later this year depending on the need.
“The key to that program was that it was meeting the immediate need, so I think we will assess what that looks like this year,” Janes said. “If we’re looking at the winter season being our peak, that’s where we want to focus short-term dollars and now, as we’re in the thick of the season, we’re hoping to pursue medium-term goals.”
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