Regional approach to workforce housing in the Roaring Fork Valley being shepherded by new West Mountain Regional Housing Coalition
Throughout the Roaring Fork Valley people have echoed the need for regional solutions for housing, and recently those calls have been answered with the newly formed West Mountain Regional Coalition.
“Housing and housing and housing are the three most important problems that we seem to be facing in the region these days,” David Myler, the at-large board member and treasurer of the coalition, said during a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board meeting on March 9.
The coalition recently became a nonprofit organization after trying to form as a regional multi-jurisdictional housing authority several years ago when there wasn’t the political will from local governments, Myler said.
Before the group was affiliated, they came together in 2017 to do a regional housing needs study, said Hannah Klausman, the director of economic and community development for the city of Glenwood Springs and secretary of the coalition board.
The coalition is made up of eight municipalities currently including the towns of Basalt, Carbondale and Snowmass Village, the cities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Eagle and Pitkin counties and the Colorado Mountain Local College District. The organization would like to get the rest of the Colorado River Valley communities and Garfield County on board, as well.
“The door is open to everybody from Aspen to Parachute to participate in this organization,” Myler said.
The group will not be the developers of any housing projects, per se, but instead aims to facilitate development, he said.
“We’re about putting partnerships together with employers, primarily local governments working with Habitat (for Humanity) and other organizations who are engaged in and have expertise and experience in producing housing to facilitate as much of it as possible,” Myler said.
Myler said the coalition has already been applying for grants including a Department of Local Affairs grant for $3 million they hope to have awarded. If so, the coalition plans to use the funding to implement a home buy-down program.
“This is part of our development neutral strategy,” Myler said.
Neutral development also helps the group avoid buying and obtaining land to build housing which takes a lot of time, effort and money.
The coalition has already received some funding. Each community contributed $10,000 as seed money, $50,000 from a DOLA administrative grant and $100,000 in Innovative Housing Strategies grants to support policies and codes and a regional scan, Klausman said.
“The buyout program, we can implement as soon as we have money in the bank, and essentially what we’re going to do in our pilot program is publicize this program and work with individual employees who want to buy a home but can’t afford it,” Myler said.
They will provide a subsidy equal to 20% of the purchase price up to $200,000 and they plan to buy housing throughout the region from Basalt to Silt.
“If it gets legs, and it actually helps people to get into a home that they can afford, it’s going to increase the supply of affordable housing because the price of admission is a deed restriction,” Myler said during the RFTA meeting. “We basically buy the home, and buy it down with the subsidy. The employer or the employee puts a deed restriction on the home and it’s now available for the inventory and perpetuity for workforce housing.”
When working into the buy-down program, the coalition conducted a study in the middle Roaring Fork Valley and found that there were 27 homes that would qualify for the buy-down program.
“They were in a price range that would have worked for us in terms of the subsidy and the income of the potential buyer in Basalt and Carbondale, that were sold between January of 2022 and June of 2022,” he said. “Just a year ago, 70% went to second homeowners and people moving to the area to retire.”
It became housing that can no longer be used as workforce housing inventory, while the coalition’s buy-down program will aim to help the workforce and also preserve existing housing, he said.
The coalition is presenting this information to regional groups like RFTA to address potential opportunities for partnerships in the future.
“We have fundraising programs that we’re organizing, but we think it’s important that we get out there and tie up the sites within the region that would be most applicable and workable for workforce housing, and RFTA is going to be a consultant on all that because we want to build projects that are close to public transportation,” Myler said.
Myler said that the board of directors have all worked extensively in workforce and affordable housing, and combined have a vast amount of knowledge to bring solutions for local housing.
“Our mission is fairly simple, we want to increase the supply of affordable workforce housing within the region, whatever means are available,” Myler said.
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