2022 in Review: Housing crisis dominated discussion over the past year; voters say ‘yes’ to state and local remedies
If there was a single issue that defined local political discussions in 2022, it was housing — specifically, a lack thereof for the growing demand, and in particular a lack of affordable housing options for the typical Garfield County wage earners.
With the area median income (AMI) at $70,700 for a two-person household and $88,300 for a four-person household, an “affordable” home for a family of four making 100% of AMI would be $298,000 to purchase and about $2,200 a month to rent, as spelled out in a fact sheet supporting Glenwood Springs Ballot Question 2C.
The ballot measure was the city’s attempt — following voter rejection in May of the 480 Donegan annexation and housing development — at establishing a dedicated fund to find housing solutions.
Meanwhile, the average sales price of a single-family home in Glenwood Springs over the past year was around $769,000, and the average sales price for a condo was $401,500.
While the typical rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Glenwood Springs ranged within the affordable priceline, from $1,900 to $2,700, vacancy rates remained at all-time lows.
Glenwood Springs city voters, recognizing the need to address the housing issue on a broader scale, ultimately approved Question 2C by a 55.5% to 45.5% margin in the Nov. 8 election. It imposes a new 2.5% lodging tax on hotels, motels and short-term vacation rentals, and was estimated to bring between $1.3 million and $1.6 million per year for the city to invest in workforce housing utilizing a variety of strategies.
“While it’s not a silver bullet, the resources and capacity this creates are meaningful,” 2C campaign leader Clark Anderson said on election night. “We can make a dent in our workforce housing needs and that’s awesome.”
Mayor Jonathan Godes said the vote showed the community recognizes the importance of taking action to help make housing more attainable for residents.
“The people have spoken and have said that in order for our economy and the city to thrive, we need a workforce housing program,” Godes said as news came that the measure had passed.
The program aims to build up a fund that would allow the city to employ different strategies to meet housing needs through property acquisitions, public-private development partnerships, buy-downs of existing residential units that could then be deed-restricted to control appreciation, down payment assistance, and other types of incentives.
Glenwood Springs in 2022 also passed a new ordinance to try to streamline the conversion of hotel and motel properties into workforce housing. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority in the fall became the first entity to purchase one of those now-former lodges, the Rodeway Inn in West Glenwood, which it plans to use for employee housing.
Carbondale does its part
Voters in neighboring Carbondale, by an even larger margin of 72%, approved a similar measure in Question 2A, imposing a 6% excise tax on short-term vacation rentals (STRs).
Similar to the Glenwood Springs measure, proceeds from the new Carbondale tax will go into the town’s community housing fund. Though only expected to bring in about $150,000 a year based on the number of registered STRs in the town, Carbondale Mayor Ben Bohmfalk noted that it’s the town’s first dedicated funding source to support workforce housing efforts.
Every little bit helps, though, and it’s extra money in the bank to leverage state and federal grant possibilities and look at programs such as buy-downs that can add to the town’s deed-restricted housing stock, he said.
Bigger picture, Carbondale town leaders are moving forward with nonprofit developer Artspace in 2023 to come up with a plan to develop the Town Center parcels that were donated to the town in late 2021 — with an emphasis on affordable workforce housing and live-work spaces for artists.
Carbondale has an established Creative District under the state of Colorado’s Creative Communities program, and the Town Center site that’s home to the Thunder River Theatre, surrounded by 14 undeveloped parcels, is right in the thick of things.
Carbondale as a whole has also seen more new residential development in the past year than any other municipality in Garfield County.
And, with the town’s 20% inclusionary housing requirement, a significant portion of those new residential units — including a total of 191 between the new Main Street Marketplace and Carbondale Center Place developments near the Main Street and Colorado Highway 133 roundabout — are to be deed-restricted as part of the town’s workforce housing stock.
Glenwood Springs city officials, at year’s end, were also weighing a proposal to up that city’s inclusionary housing requirement from 10% to 20% — an ongoing discussion for the new year.
Statewide in the November 2022 election, Colorado voters also approved Proposition 123 — the “Make Colorado Affordable” initiative. It will take what would otherwise be state tax refund money, an estimated $300 million per year, and put it into grants for affordable housing projects around the state.
“This puts $300 million a year into affordable housing without increasing taxes, without cutting other priorities in the general fund, and people still get their tax refund,” campaign backer and former state Sen. Mike Johnston said. “The real challenge here is we need more supply of housing,” he said in advance of the election.
“We’ve built 40% fewer units in Colorado over the last 10 years than in the decades before that, and one of the reasons why prices are going through the roof is because we don’t have enough supply.” Regionally, 2022 also marked the formation of the new Roaring Fork Housing Coalition, which aims to facilitate housing projects and incentives collectively among participating local governments in the Roaring Fork Valley region.
Farther west in Garfield County, Rifle also saw the development of the 20-home Wapiti Commons Habitat for Humanity project, and approval of the first round of Eco-Dwelling units.
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-384-9160.
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