At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting, Grand County Housing Authority Coordinator, Sheena Darland, presented the commissioners with an overview of the county’s affordable/attainable housing conundrum.
“This topic is at the forefront of everyone’s conversations, we all know this,” said Darland. “Who is going to provide housing to help solve the problem, and, how do we help?”
“The market will not fix itself, keep that in mind” said Darland. If left alone, experts say the lack of affordable housing will cause other social and economic issues such as:
Increased household instability
- Causing an increased risk of families becoming homeless.
Decrease in Economic Stability
- Cost burden households are left with little funds for important household expenses, leading to difficult budget trade-offs such as prescriptions or housing.
- Burdened households risk inability to save to move into homeownership.
- Housing instability can jeopardize children’s performance and success in school, leading to lasting achievement gaps.
- Housing instability and homelessness have serious negative effects on children and adults health.
- Families are forced to choose between medications, needed medical care and housing leading to a significant decrease in life expectancy.
- Poor housing quality had been directly linked to increases in infectious diseases, chronic illnesses, and injuries.
“I like this. It’s more of a conceptual idea for us to think about”, said Chairman Richard Cimino.
Darland went on to say the lack of affordable housing also has a negative economic impact on businesses. Local business will suffer from the inability to recruit and sustain quality/skilled employees. “We are seeing that in our county,” said Darland. As a result, businesses are forced to reduce services/close early/close permanently.
There is also a strain on community resource providers, such as nonprofits. In 2018, Mountain Family Center helped 124 households with Housing Retention, and, 114 households with other direct client services including (but not limited to) medical, household maintenance, transitional housing, etc.
Darland added, “The Grand Foundation has a Housing Assistance Fund and has helped about 75% of households with rental assistance and about 25% with down payment assistance.” The program considers applications for rental assistance on a case by case basis. They look at what they can do to help the applicant for periods up to one year.
“A study performed by Boston Medical Center’s Children’s Health Watch estimates that housing instability will cost the healthcare industry around $111 billion over the next decade,” said Darland. “Housing is linked to economy, more so than just a house.”
“So, how do we fix it?” asked Darland. “We start by evaluating what we need, look at the results, evaluate obstacles and make a resolution.”
Currently, the Grand County Housing Authority receives a .5% transfer fee from the Coyote Creek subdivision in Tabernash. Last year, it generated revenue in the amount of $15,050. This amount goes into the Housing Authority’s general operations fund.
Section 8 Housing Choice voucher holders are finding a lack of rentals available at an affordable price, forcing some to move out of the county. Down payment assistance is also challenged, since the for sale market pricing is high, making it difficult for people to purchase a home.
Utilizing data from the 2016 Fraser and 2015 Winter Park housing needs assessments and other reports, Darland estimated that Grand County needs 500 additional housing units by 2020 to be able to support job growth.
Commissioner Kris Manguso observed the Rodeo apartments and Smith Creek Crossing developments in Granby will have about 400 units. “Granby is doing projects that are going to help.”
Darland continued, pointing out obstacles including the lack of a dedicated housing funding source. As a county-formed housing authority, they don’t have the ability to initiate a mill levy or sales tax.
Nominal fees for STRs, lack of residential linkage fees or affordable housing impact fees, lack of Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulation, land banking and minimum deed restriction to preserve affordable housing all create challenges.
Chairman Cimino asked Darland what it would take to convert from a county-formed housing authority to a multijurisdictional housing authority. Darland explained that it would first need the support of municipalities and would have to go to the voters in order to be created. Then, it would work with Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA) with the municipalities, similar to how the fire districts operate.
Darland presented the commissioners with a list of suggested resolutions to consider:
- Develop a unified mission that complements, incorporates, and supports the mission and goals of the municipalities, a mission that breaks down silos and brings unity and collaboration to affordable housing county-wide.
- Encourage growth in the Housing Authority’s administered programs.
- Support opportunities to partner with developers to provide tax exemption which builds equity and allows for more affordability.
- Establish designated affordable housing funding sources.
- Review zoning regulations, building codes, permitting fees and process to insure flexibility and streamlined processing.
Chairman Cimino stated, “These are all good things to consider. Thank you for bringing them to us. We as a body look to resolve this.”
“These are potential options to allow us to move forward”, said Darland.
Darland next discussed the Single Family Owner Occupied Rehabilitation Program (SFOO). The Colorado Division of Housing offers Community Development block grant funds and Darland asked for approval to apply for $250,000 for the first year, enough to finance ten (10) 0% interest deferred loans to be used for rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes. The program requires minimal administrative monitoring since the loans payoff at the time of sale or transfer.
Commissioner Manguso said she didn’t feel a program like this was needed in Grand County at this time.
Chairman Cimino said, since it was small and utilized outside county funding, he supported it.
Commissioner Merrit Linke added, “Maybe it’s worth a try. It doesn’t obligate us to do this forever. This is something that always comes to the top of things we need to do in Grand County. This helps seniors make improvements to remain in their homes.”
Commissioner Linke motioned to approve the Housing Authority’s making application for the block grant by way of a resolution. The motion was approved 2-1, with commissioner Manguso casting a dissenting vote.
To listen to the meetings and learn more, visit co.grand.co.us.