PI Editorial: Glenwood Springs’ affordable housing policy light on substance, heavy on wishful thinking

Post Independent Editorial Board

Good intentions can easily be thwarted by thinking too small — something Glenwood Springs City Council should keep in mind as they move forward with a citywide affordable housing policy.

The council voted last month to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would cap property or rental prices for 10% of all units in any development with more than 10 housing units total based on 100% of the area median income.

For a one-person apartment, rent for an affordable housing unit would be capped at $1,585. For a two-person rental, the rent would be capped at $1,902. A three-person rental would be capped at $2,197 and a four person rental would be capped at $2,452.

Now, we doubt there are many out there who don’t think the rising cost of housing is a problem in our community, but the reality is looking at just Glenwood Springs doesn’t acknowledge the scope of the issues — and the need to create partnerships with other communities.

The story of rising housing costs begins decades ago in Aspen, but it now runs throughout the entire Roaring Fork and even continues west along Interstate 70.

Glenwood Springs going it alone on a solution is doomed to be a drop in the bucket — and is unlikely to address the problem in a meaningful way.

Then there’s the impact on developers looking to add further housing stock to our region. Will a lock on 10% of their units as affordable housing discourage some of them from moving projects forward? We’re not sure, but we would encourage city councilors to recognize the importance of hearing from as many stakeholders on this issue as possible — and strongly consider lifting the 3-minute limit on public comment.

It’s also unlikely that developers themselves will foot the bill on this policy. Instead, they will likely pass those added costs down to those who rent or purchase homes on the open market.

Deed restrictions only work in an intentional public-private partnership, usually involving a housing authority or some entity that actually buys the land for that specific intent and purpose. There’s usually a private developer on board, but they know what they’re getting into and do so intentionally.

Good policy does more than just mean well — it recognizes a challenge and creates solutions that raise the quality of life for as much of the community as possible. A policy that makes it more difficult to develop housing in Glenwood Springs is unlikely to miraculously add considerable housing to our existing stock. That is most likely the practical solution our community needs.

We hope councilors consider the full picture on affordable housing — and vote no on the current proposal.

The Post Independent editorial board consists of Publisher Bryce Jacobson, Editor Peter Baumann and Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud.

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