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BOCC hopes affordable housing changes will spur development

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – In an effort to provide “incentives” to local builders, Garfield County officials are working on revisions to the county’s decade-old affordable housing guidelines.

Among the proposals headed for formal consideration so far, the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) wants to drop the affordable-housing requirement from 15 percent of the homes built in a project to 10 percent.

The BOCC also has directed its staff to increase the threshold size of a project that triggers affordable housing, from five units to 15, and to restrict any affordable housing requirements the county imposes to lands within the Roaring Fork Valley.



Among the ideas still being tossed around is to drop one required affordable housing unit from a given project’s requirement for every new free-market house that is built.

In planning jargon, this proposal is known as the “one-for-one” exchange, as described by long-range planner Tamra Allen.



The idea has the endorsement of the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors, as does the idea of a two-year moratorium on all affordable-housing requirements, according to former association chair Debbie Sanderson, who appeared at the Monday meeting.

Another proposal is to suspend the affordable housing requirements for two or three years, until the area economy is demonstrably recovering.

But that proposed change has met with opposition from the county’s housing authority director, Geneva Powell.

“We feel like Article 8 [the affordable housing section of the code] does not need to be suspended,” Powell testified at Monday’s meeting.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky seemed in agreement, saying, “I’m opposed to a moratorium, but I am in favor of a building incentive.”

The exact nature of a building incentive isn’t yet defined at this point, although county staffers have been directed to start working on the concept and present it to the BOCC at a future meeting.

The commissioners also directed staff to develop a proposal for what Commissioner John Martin termed a “one-year waiver” of affordable housing guidelines for developers. Jankovsky, however, said he is worried that a waiver might be an invitation for developers to apply for development approvals for projects that might not actually be built for years.

County attorney Andrew Gorgey noted that raising the affordable housing threshold to 15 units, and cutting the housing requirement from 15 percent to 10 percent of a project, “is an incentive in itself.” However, he will work with colleagues to develop the waiver and building incentive ideas.

Although the proposals seem to have the backing of the area’s real estate community, at least one broker did not agree.

“It’s not affordable housing that’s the problem, it’s the economy,” said broker Cindy Sadlowski of Carbondale, whose business includes listing affordable housing units for sale.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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