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Commercial requirements will be part of affordable housing discussion

Commercial developments bring jobs to Glenwood Springs. Should they be required to help provide housing, too?That’s among the questions to be considered by Glenwood Springs City Council tonight during a meeting with the city’s Housing Commission.The commission is seeking direction from council on a range of ideas for bringing more affordable housing to town. For one thing, it wants to know what council thinks of what is called commercial linkage.The approach is used by some upvalley governments. It’s based on the thinking that developments that bring new employees to town also should help provide a place for some of them to live.Sometimes commercial developers are required to build affordable housing in conjunction with their projects. In other cases they may be required to pay impact fees that can be used to help make affordable housing available.City planner Jill Peterson said commercial linkage is no more than an idea at this point, and no recommendations have been made to council. Rather, the commission wants council’s feedback before it further explores various affordable housing ideas.The city now requires developers of residential housing to provide 15 percent of their units as deed-restricted housing. The restriction limits the units’ annual increase in valuation, which enables them to be sold for less than free-market homes.Another idea officials will be considering tonight is increasing the maximum incomes people can earn while still being eligible to buy deed-restricted homes. Peterson said the city has discovered in conducting lotteries to sell these homes that a fair number of people earning more than the maximums are interested in buying them.”We had a little bit of an inkling of it last year when we did the first lottery,” Peterson said.Only one person ended up applying for that lottery. The city is in the middle of conducting a second lottery and received eight applicants by the deadline, an increase which Peterson attributes to the increasingly high cost of housing. The city currently is reviewing the applications to see if they meet the program’s eligibility requirements.The affordable housing ideas are among several suggested by consultants who conducted a housing study for Glenwood Springs last year. The study, released in December, found that housing prices are rising twice as fast as income and many would-be buyers are being priced out of the market.The consultants also recommended identifying suitable vacant parcels that are publicly owned by entities, such as school districts, and partnering to build affordable housing on them.Also tonight, the Housing Commission and council are scheduled to discuss making concessions on things such as building height limits and parking requirements as incentives for affordable housing projects. Also up for consideration is the future of fee waivers for affordable housing developments. City rules allow waivers of various development fees, but council has found itself divided over whether it can afford to grant them and whether doing so subsidizes private developers.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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