Council cool to linking commercial developments, affordable housing
Some Glenwood Springs City Council members are balking at a suggestion that the city make commercial developments help provide affordable housing.In a workshop with the city Housing Commission Thursday, several council members voiced concerns that the approach might impede commercial growth.”Would Target have come in if they had to pay for homes for their employers?” asked council member Joe O’Donnell.Council member Dave Merritt said the requirement would penalize job creation.The Housing Commission had asked council for initial feedback on various ideas for increasing affordable housing in Glenwood. The so-called commercial linkage concept was one of several ideas suggested by consultants who conducted a housing study for Glenwood Springs last year.Commercial linkage is based on the idea that creators of new jobs also should help provide housing for the employees who fill them, either through building affordable housing or contributing financially to affordable housing programs.Carbondale, Aspen and Basalt all have commercial linkage programs. Glenwood community development director Andrew McGregor said that makes it easier to create such a program, because there isn’t fear of businesses going to towns without such requirements.Council member Chris McGovern fears the requirement still could have impacts. For example, she wondered what might happen if Wal-Mart wanted to redevelop its store that is now in Glenwood.”They’re not going to Carbondale but they might sure as heck go to unincorporated Garfield County,” she said.At least one council member, Dave Johnson, expressed interest in the commercial linkage idea. And McGregor said that if affordable housing isn’t addressed through means that might include commercial linkage, “the problem is at some point we’re going to be deterring employment for lack of employees.”He said Glenwood would remain a desirable community for development, even with requirements such as commercial linkage. But unless the city changes its policies and community vision it could end up like Aspen and Boulder, with no more room for housing, he said.”I think we’re already in a crisis situation with housing in Glenwood – workforce housing,” council member Kris Chadwick said.Said Housing Commission Chair Mike Blair, “We said the same thing, ‘we’re in a crisis,’ 11 years ago when this (commission) program was set up. We’re working on it.”But he conceded that the effort has been difficult.Last year’s housing study found that housing prices in Glenwood are rising twice as fast as local incomes and many would-be buyers are being priced out of the market.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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