Glenwood Springs City Council candidates weigh in on worker housing concerns
On the issues
Who: Glenwood Springs candidates for City Council At-Large and Ward 3
What: A weeklong series with the candidates in the April 2 city election addressing the Post Independent’s questions.
Monday: What is your vision for Glenwood Springs’ confluence area redevelopment?
Tuesday: Specifically, what should be done with the parcel of land where the former Grand Avenue Bridge touched down adjacent to Sixth Street?
Wednesday: What is your position on the new 3/4-cent sales tax for citywide street construction and repairs, and why?
Thursday: What can City Council do to help people who work in Glenwood Springs also afford to live in Glenwood Springs?
Friday: How should the issue of short-term vacation rentals be handled in Glenwood Springs?
Glenwood Springs’ ability to house a greater portion of the city’s workforce has been a major issue of concern for many years.
We asked the candidates in two contested races for the City Council At Large and Ward 3 seats their thoughts on the issue in this fourth of five Q&A installments running this week in the Post Independent.
Voters should be receiving ballots in the mail next week.
What can City Council do to help people who work in Glenwood Springs also afford to live in Glenwood Springs?
Affordability is a complex issue that should be constantly considered in the development projects that City Council approves and the policy choices that City Council makes. Council should also be open to creative and new approaches to this old problem.
For example, the city could study and implement policies that encourage and incentivize developers to build entry-level residential units in tandem with any proposed development that adds jobs. The right set of incentives would be mutually beneficial, apply community-wide, and depend on the project rather than being a one-size-fits-all strategy.
To tackle affordable housing at the scale necessary to meet current and future needs, the city’s policies should be designed as incentives, not mandates. Other communities that have centered their efforts on deed-restriction solutions have also seen the perverse effect of disincentivizing affordable housing and creating cost hurdles, not only in new development but also for redevelopment of existing properties.
City Council can also help by exploring and seeking out creative partnerships with entities, like Colorado Mountain College or Valley View Hospital, that may have similar goals in mind.
The fact is that options for Glenwood Springs acting on its own to address housing are limited by our local topography. Therefore, we are more likely to identify feasible solutions which are regional, and which encompass not only housing but transportation throughout the region as well.
I will encourage convening a symposium that includes representatives of all municipal and county governments from Rifle to Aspen to Eagle, as well as housing development experts. While I cannot predict the outcome, at least we would be attempting to tackle the issues in a manner more likely to produce results.
I believe what we lack most is suitable homes for young families. This is an issue not only of quantity, but of quality. It is about creating communities and places where people feel safe, and where they feel they belong — that they are part of something. Currently, there is a study under way to determine the best and highest use of the airport property, and ultimately the citizens of Glenwood will make that decision. In the event they decide that the property would be better used either partially or entirely for housing, I would only support a project that creates these kinds of communities.
It is crucial that Glenwood Springs keep our community affordable for everyone. Glenwood has and will continue to thrive only if we have a permanent population of working people and families.
We do not want to be Aspen that can house a small portion of the people who work there and expect other down valley towns to house their workforce. This will exacerbate traffic and congestion issues.
Affordable housing is one solution but not via a “piecemeal” approach. Building random units in various locations without due regard to the neighborhoods and infrastructure makes no sense. And when we “shoehorn” projects into small areas without proper allowances for parking, the result at recent projects is insufficient parking. This can also create stress on existing neighborhoods when a single-family home, because of costs, is rented by multiple families with the resulting negative impacts.
We must insure there are opportunities for young people and families to move here, rent long term, and then possibly buy a house. That is what will keep our community vibrant and sustainable. Short-term vacations rentals can have a detrimental effect on long-term rentals, which makes it harder for people to afford to move here. This is why we need to continue to look closely at these types of rentals’ impacts as they can drive out long-term renters who are more stable.
Finally, I would like to explore public/private partnerships with local employers, businesses and developers to provide entry level and affordable housing for young people and families.
Ward 3 candidates
Attainable workforce housing is a complex and difficult problem. City Council needs to become educated on the components and costs a developer incurs as a project goes from planning to construction.
Once Council has this knowledge base, then it can negotiate reasonable and appropriate incentives, fee waivers and other concessions to make a project more affordable, with a proper profit component to the developer. Only through this process and a commitment by the city and the developer on individual projects can the city assist in providing housing at hopefully affordable prices for individual units.
The development of the confluence area and the work with the master developer to be retained by council may lead to other ways to attain reasonably priced workforce housing. Council has recently reactivated its Housing Commission and input from this Commission will be important in developing criteria for Council to use in approving developments to help meet this critical need.
There are also groups/individuals who are addressing the workforce housing on a valley wide level and Council needs to be engaged in this process. An option, but one that must be used cautiously, is deed-restricted housing, which limits the price increase for units after that initial purchase. It is my understanding that such deed-restrictive housing may require the city to actually invest in the development and construction of units. This would require new funding sources and likely the need to establish a housing authority, thus the cautious approach.
The ability for Glenwood to remain a viable community for its workforce is very important to me as I believe it enhances the sense of community that makes this town what it is. Making sure that affordable units are incorporated into any new development is one step in achieving that objective. Limiting short-term rentals also plays a part.
This question is on the upper end of unsolvable. In 2019, approximately 300 rental units will become home to people. None are for sale. We created more housing without creating opportunity for real estate equity in peoples’ lives. That’s done now.
Realistically, all city council can do is approve building permits and require developers to pay their own way.
I am learning and seeing the position of City Council is about weighing out best options with what is before us at the time. When I see no alternatives are specified, then council’s job is to create best choices.
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“I feel I have the opportunity to go out and work for the people, and represent the people directly,” Wilhelm said.