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February 26, 2013
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Glenwood Spring's affordable housing rules under review

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - City Council will give Glenwood Springs' community housing program a thorough review before a temporary suspension of the rules comes up for reconsideration this summer.

The city requires that 15 percent of houses in new residential developments meet affordability standards, such as price controls, buyer income targets and appreciation caps.

However, those rules have been suspended for the last two years in an effort to spur building activity following the recession and the downturn in the local real estate market.

Before the suspension expires Sept. 5, council would like to revisit the program to determine what has worked and what hasn't, and possibly make some changes.

"It does seem inequitable that residential developers are asked to solve a problem that they didn't really create," City Councilman Mike Gamba said during a brief Feb. 21 council discussion.

And by targeting the construction industry it can translate to fewer tax revenues for the city, he said.

Added Councilman Todd Leahy, while deed restrictions help buyers get into houses, they don't offer any protection when the market falls.

"Maybe we shouldn't be helping people get into houses that they maybe otherwise can't afford," Leahy said.

Leahy offered that incentives for developers to build rent-controlled housing should be included in the city's community housing program.

"Renting is a form of affordable housing," Leahy said. "There's nothing wrong with renting a house until you're able to afford your own home."

He noted that, in the dozen or so years that deed restriction requirements have been in place in Glenwood Springs, only 10 affordable units have been built.

By comparison, the new Glenwood Green low-income apartment project that's currently under construction at Glenwood Meadows will have 60 units.

The project is taking advantage of state and federal tax credits, and it received numerous fee waivers from the city as an incentive to provide low-rent housing.

"To me, that's a successful project," Leahy said.

Several other Colorado towns, cities and counties are also reviewing their affordable housing requirements.

Leahy said Glenwood Springs could find some good comparisons with rule changes made in other communities.

Councilman Stephen Bershenyi suggested that the city improve its loan program for city employees to be able to buy houses in the community.

"That's something we should promote as much as we can, so that we can allow our staff to be able to afford to live here," Bershenyi said.

The city's affordable housing rules will likely be the topic of a future City Council work session.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Feb 26, 2013 01:11AM Published Feb 26, 2013 01:09AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.