Glenwood’s affordable housing mandate taken off books | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood’s affordable housing mandate taken off books

Residential property developers in Glenwood Springs will no longer be required to provide a percentage of deed-restricted for-sale affordable housing units in their projects, Glenwood City Council decided on a 4-3 vote Thursday night.

"This has been the wrong policy since it was adopted, and it's even more wrong now," Councilor Todd Leahy, who has been a regular critic of the requirement, saying it serves to obstruct rather than promote affordable housing.

Mayor Michael Gamba, along with council members Kathryn Trauger and Steve Davis, have tended to agree with that assessment.

"It's counter-intuitive," Gamba said. "It only serves to penalize the people providing the product we are trying to get."

At the same time, council also agreed that, following a housing needs assessment to be conducted by a group studying the possible formation of a regional housing authority, a broader city housing policy is needed.

Glenwood's so-called inclusionary housing requirement was first adopted in 2001 as a way to maintain a stock of below-market, owner-occupied housing during a time of rapid growth and double-digit percentage increases in housing costs.

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It required developers of projects with six or more residential units to make 15 percent of them affordable units, with deed restrictions including income qualifiers for buyers, resident-owner occupancy, and annual appreciation caps.

The rule was suspended for the past six years as the city sought to spur new construction following the 2008 recession and resulting downturn in the area housing market. More recently, the city has shifted its focus to providing incentives for deed-restricted rental units instead.

Since its adoption, the city's community housing program generated only 10 deed-restricted for-sale units, three of which have since fallen off the books due to foreclosure. Now, the requirement has been removed from Glenwood's development code altogether.

Councilors Shelley Kaup, Rick Voorhees and Jonathan Godes cast the dissenting votes Thursday night.

"A lot of thought, planning and strategy went into developing this policy," Kaup said, noting that the rules were revised following a 2005 housing study to provide more flexibility and bargaining ability.

"It's still one tool in the tool box to try to get more for-sale units in our community that are affordable," she said.

Driving council's decision is also a pending rewrite of the city's development code, which is expected to be completed after the first of the year. A majority of council felt the affordable housing provision is no longer relevant.

Deed-restrictions might work in higher-end resort markets such as Aspen, and even in Carbondale, where the pricing gap between the free market and deed-restricted units is far greater, Gamba said.

"Personally, I'm motivated to see a workforce housing policy, but this not it," he said. "It's taxing the home builder. If there's a need in the community, then the community needs to pay for that need."

Trauger said there may be a place for inclusionary housing in the future as part of a broader policy, but not as was currently written, she said.

"To take something that hasn't worked and try to rework it is not the best use of time," she said. "To continue to keep it in the code and not use it … that's just confusing."