Carbondale includes rentals in affordable housing guidelines | PostIndependent.com

Carbondale includes rentals in affordable housing guidelines

Ryan Summerlin
rsummerlin@postindependent.com

CARBONDALE RENTAL RATES

These would be maximum rental rates for units to count as affordable under community housing guidelines.

80 percent of AMI:

Studio — $976

One-bedroom — $1,046

Two-bedroom — $1,256

Three-bedroom — $1,450

100 percent of AMI:

Studio — $1,220

One-bedroom — $1,307

Two-bedroom — $1,570

Three-bedroom — $1,812

120 percent of AMI:

Studio — $1,464

One-bedroom — $1,569

Two-bedroom — $1,884

Three-bedroom — $2,175

Carbondale trustees have updated the town’s community housing guidelines to accept affordable rentals as an option for developers to meet their affordable housing requirements.

Currently the town has a trigger point for residential developments. If a developer is building five or more units, 20 percent of them must be deed-restricted housing.

As the number of total units in a development goes up, the number of required affordable units, also called “community housing,” goes up.

While the Unified Development Code, approved in May of this year, referenced rentals as affordable housing, Carbondale’s community housing guidelines did not. But with the board’s recent changes, those can be either for-sale units or rentals.

With this move, Carbondale is following steps that other local governments in the region have taken.

Aspen, Vail and the Roaring Fork School District have affordable rentals in their affordable housing mix in addition to deed-restricted home ownership, said KT Gazunis, Garfield County Housing Authority executive director.

Those local governments however, have ownership, in part or in full, in their projects, so they can set rental rates.

The changes Carbondale has made expands the ability of the local government to ensure long-term rental affordability without setting a rent cap, she said.

Carbondale is setting a range for developers based on area median income. These are ranges based on Colorado Housing and Finance Authority standards — what Gazunis called the “holy grail” of affordable price ranges.

“It’s a very reasonable tool to add to the affordability mix. I’m my opinion Carbondale is very forward thinking and at the cutting edge to keep workforce housing and other kinds of housing in the community,” she said.

Glenwood Springs has also recently passed an ordinance allowing waivers of impact fees for developers who build deed-restricted rental units. Developments with rent rates targeting people at 120 percent of AMI would qualify. However, the city attorney has said the council may consider bringing that target down to 100 percent of AMI.

Carbondale trustees, however, disagreed on some of the community housing guideline requirements, specifically the requirement that occupants be employed full time.

Trustee Katrina Byars was outspoken about relaxing that rule, opting for language that would only require the occupant be “regularly employed.”

John Leybourne, town planner, said the guidelines define full time as someone working 1,500 hours per year, which averages about 32 hours per week for 11 months out of the year.

Byars said she didn’t want to close the door on people who might be right at that threshold, someone who can work only 25 hours per week or who was working full time and lost their job, given the scarcity of work.

Town Manager Jay Harrington said he was part of an “interpretation committee” that offers some flexibility and decides whether someone who doesn’t quite meet the town’s standards still fits with the intent of the guidelines.

“If you’re working 20 hours per week, how are you going to afford to buy the unit or pay the rent?” Trustee Marty Silverstein asked.

It’s the board’s responsibility, said Trustee Heather Henry, to put the occupants in housing they can afford.

But Henry, too, was in favor of requiring the occupant to be only “regularly employed,” partly to keep applicants from being scared away by a strict full-time work requirement.

Mayor Dan Richardson said he wasn’t comfortable going below half-time employment and preferred the full-time requirement as defined, given that it was based on precedent set by other municipalities with affordable rental guidelines.

Henry added that she wanted to get these guideline changes passed rather than let other desired changes hold up the process. And the board ultimately passed the resolution without changing any occupancy or work requirements for residents.

The board is also planning an affordable housing needs study. Some trustees have speculated that the affordable housing threshold of five residential units could be reduced depending on the findings of this study. But first it’s going back to the planning commission to determine its scope before it returns to the Board of Trustees for authorization.