Glenwood Springs affordable housing survey informs possible tax questions
Glenwood Springs residents are more in favor of a lodging tax than an admissions tax to help support affordable housing solutions, according to a recent city survey.
Using language typical for a Colorado ballot question, the survey asked what residents thought was the most urgent need in the city, and about different solutions for affordable housing.
“It’s a balance between how do we have a real impact and deliver some results and do that in a way where we’re not creating an onerous or unfair burden. And that’s a tricky balance that we’re working on,” said Clark Anderson, director of the nonprofit organization Community Builders, who volunteered to help the city with the survey.
The survey established that addressing the availability of housing is a top priority for respondents. Overcrowding and traffic are the next-highest priorities.
“Housing is a significant, if not the most significant threat to our economy and has a huge range of impacts on our community, including being a main driver of our traffic, and a huge sort of contributor to the challenge of keeping our businesses moving, because they lack the employees they need,” Anderson said.
The survey is just one tool to find different solutions that will work for the entire community, said Bill Ray, a consultant for the city who has worked with many Colorado towns. He advised the City Council exactly how these tools would work to help find the best solution.
The proposed tax questions are only the first steps in the path to funding affordable housing, he said.
“Talk to your constituents and hear their viewpoints on this,” Ray said, explaining the conversation he had with City Council when members received the survey results. “When you get feedback from the business community, the employers, the employees, those impacted by housing, your constituents and others, then look at the survey results as part of that overall view, to see, does this match what we’re hearing from the community?”
He said the questions on the specific survey were more to see what direction the community will want to move toward.
“You can use all these results to kind of get a feel for how the community views affordable housing, and potentially having one or more ballot questions to help you fund affordable housing programs,” he said.
Outside of the survey, Anderson has been working with a committee and two round tables that include a group of community members, business members, and civic and nonprofit leaders who have been exploring Glenwood Springs’ affordable housing issue for months.
He said they have been trying to evaluate the different options the city has to address funding affordable housing.
“We’re at a point now where we’re looking at how we can create the funding needed to deliver some real results,” Anderson said. “When we got to a point where it was clear that a program with dedicated local funding could be a key piece of a local strategy that could deliver real results, we realized it was important to look at where that funding could come from, and that’s what the survey was about.”
The survey found that many of the residents who voted were in favor of the lodging tax but weren’t necessarily in favor of the admissions tax. The language on the admissions tax questions stated only that it was for anything involving an admission fee but was still vague on what all that could include.
“The survey showed more support for a lodging tax,” Anderson said. “And so one thing we’re doing now is having some good dialogue with the lodging community around that, and also balancing that with the dialogue we’re having around the community.”
Even with a stronger push for a lodging tax, much of the lodging community and many business owners in Glenwood Springs who have been involved are supportive of the possible rise in price for their guests.
“Nobody showed up and said we don’t need action. Nobody has shown up and said this is a bad idea. Everybody wants to see solutions,” Anderson said.
Anderson and Ray have urged the city to continue to outreach to the community, especially with a focus on businesses to better understand the challenges they’re facing with employment and maintaining their business.
“Businesses are one part of this puzzle, but it’s very important that we talk to the broader community,” Anderson said. “So we’re going to be organizing some outreach to the broader community in the coming weeks as well.”
Although the language on the survey questions was written by city attorney Karl Hanlon to read as they would on a ballot, the city is still very far from making a decision on what will go on the ballot for affordable housing. Both Anderson and Ray are working with the community and business owners to find what will be the best questions for residents to vote on.
“If something goes on the ballot, they want to see it work, and I think they’re trying to give us feedback that informs what’s going to be politically viable,” Anderson said. “I also think they want it to be successful in the sense that it needs to be effective and help deliver results.”
The ballot has to be certified by Sept. 9. City Council will have comment at its meeting this week, along with an update from the Glenwood Community Housing Coalition, said Jenn Ooton, assistant city manager.
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