Housing boards: How do they work? | VailDaily.com

Housing boards: How do they work?

Tamara Miller

EAGLE COUNTY – Their budgets aren’t funded with taxpayer money, but their records are open to the public.

The developers of local affordable housing projects like Buffalo Ridge, Lake Creek and Riverview all have a relationship with a public entity – in the first case, it’s Avon, the last two, it’s Eagle County. Yet neither the town nor the county are financially liable for the projects.

They are called public corporations and that’s how most of the publicly-sponsored affordable housing projects in Eagle County have been built.

The concept of affordable housing is relatively new to the Vail Valley. The first project of its kind was built in the 1990s. The company developing that projects, the Eaglebend Apartments in Avon, had difficulty getting financing for the project so it turned to the town of Avon for help.

“The role of the town is a sponsoring entity,” said Jeff Spanel, who serves on the housing boards for Kayak Crossing in Eagle-Vail and Buffalo Ridge and Eaglebend in Avon. “They have no financial responsibilities.”

It’s become a common way to bring affordable housing to the county.

For one, it gives the project legitimacy in the eyes of bankers. Secondly, once the projects are paid off, they become property of the sponsoring entity. In the case of Kayak Crossing, Eaglebend and Buffalo Ridge, Avon will take over the project once they are paid off, Spanel said.

The funds for each of these projects are governed by a housing board. Because the project is considered public, the goings-on for these boards are considered public, too. But their budgets come for rents, not taxpayer funds, Spanel said.

While not financially involved, the sponsoring entity – in Buffalo Ridge’s case, Avon – does have a stake in the future of the project. The town appoints one member to the five-member governing board, which becomes the project’s owner until the debt is retired.

Avon has a policy of maintaining a hands-off relationship with the affordable housing projects in town, Avon Town Councilman Ron Wolfe said. The town’s appointed member is never an elected official. Currently, Town Manager Larry Brooks serves as the town representative on these boards.

The county’s public corporations are Lake Creek, Golden Eagle senior apartments and Riverview. There are three county appointees on each of these boards and in the case of Riverview, county appointees comprise the board entirely.

Lake Creek’s board requires three county appointees, someone from the development company and a local businessman.

Spanel said most financial institutions require that a representative from the development company that built the project serve on the housing board. However, there are no assigned seats on any of Avon’s housing boards.

“There are just five unpaid volunteers,” he said.

Supporting affordable housing

Eaglebend and Lake Creek recently refinanced their mortgages, freeing up some extra funds. Both boards have used those extra funds to help other affordable housing projects in the area.

Eaglebend lent Kayak Crossing $300,000 to help with initial operating costs, Brooks said.

Lake Creek gave $90,000 to Riverview, to help cover a cash flow problem that stemmed from some mismanagement, said Commissioner Tom Stone, who serves on Riverview’s board.

The county decided to take over managing the Eagle-Vail housing complex and the money was used to cover operating costs. Since then, Riverview has been fine, Stone said.

Eaglebend and Lake Creek made donations to Buffalo Ridge – $600,000 and $200,000, respectively. The project, which was a required part of the Village at Avon approval, endured problems due to rising construction costs and a lackluster rental market.

Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 607, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.

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