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Glenwood to study affordable housing needs

Dennis Webb

Glenwood Springs plans to assess the city’s need for affordable housing.City Council members Thursday supported the city Housing Commission’s proposal to update the city’s 1997 Community Housing Attainability Strategy.Prompted by questions from the commission, council members also debated ideas from providing city land for affordable housing, and imposing deed restrictions on that housing, to requiring replacement of lost affordable housing and establishing green building standards for new affordable housing.Council members backed in concept the idea of making sure the new housing is low-maintenance, durable, energy-efficient and healthy.”I just want to make sure if we work hard to get housing here in Glenwood, it’s good housing, that’s all,” said commission chair Steve Novy.Thursday’s discussion was prompted by a request from the commission for clarification of its expected roles and responsibilities.Council agreed with the Housing Commission’s recommendation that the city conduct an affordable housing needs assessment and inventory of existing housing. The commission also hopes to determine the mix of rental and for-sale housing, and housing prices.Council members also backed giving the commission permission to explore options for putting city-owned land to use for affordable housing. But they differed over what the city should get in return for providing that land.One idea is to require that any housing built on the land be deed-restricted. That means capping any increase in the housing’s value so it remains affordable when resold.That approach has been implemented in Carbondale and elsewhere in Garfield County. But Glenwood Springs council member Chris McGovern said it’s important that buyers of affordable housing be able to build equity in their homes as other homeowners do.Otherwise, “We’re leaving those people behind,” she said.Council member Joe O’Donnell said there needs to be some kind of restriction on the housing if developers build it on city-owned property.Novy said he didn’t want the question of using city-owned land for housing to get hung up on the contentious issue of deed restrictions.”I’d like to see what the needs assessment tells us” about the possible merit of deed restrictions, he said.Council members generally agreed they don’t want to get into the housing business themselves, but are interested in working in partnership with developers on possible projects involving city land.The idea would be to address one of the biggest challenges to affordable housing: finding affordable land. But council members also noted there are few city properties available for housing construction.Also a question is who would be eligible for living in that housing. One approach would be to give priority to essential city employees, such as emergency service workers, as well as to other crucial community workers such as teachers and hospital employees.But council member Larry Beckwith said he doesn’t think it’s proper to designate the housing for certain employees.”To me it’s got to be generic, it’s got to be open to everybody in some form,” he said.The Housing Commission also plans to explore what policies the city might adopt to address the loss of affordable housing. O’Donnell said the issue came to light upon the loss of a trailer park due to redevelopment at Rock Gardens in No Name, east of city limits.Basalt has an ordinance that requires creation of replacement housing when affordable housing is lost. But Glenwood Springs city attorney Karl Hanlon said such ordinances can be complicated. Beckwith said he wouldn’t support such a measure.Hanlon said he thinks trailer parks are profitable enough that they are unlikely to be closed in Glenwood Springs. But Andrew McGregor, the city’s community development director, said they also are management-intensive, which increases the threat of park closings.He said the city also faces the danger of losing single-family homes due to underlying commercial zoning. Tightening up the city’s zoning code could help prevent this, he said.But McGovern said it would be wrong to take away commercial zoning in areas such as Grand Avenue.In general, she said she would hate to see regulatory solutions to affordable housing.”I think the bully pulpit is as far as I would want to see it go,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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