HUD honcho: Resort workers won’t be forgotten in Washington
Breckenridge, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE – As government agencies continue trying to help people buy homes amid the smoldering remains of the U.S. housing market, at least one top Fed said he’s heard the message about how tough the resort-town market can be.
Ron Sims, the No. 2 man at the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was in Breckenridge this week attending the annual Housing Colorado Now! conference at Beaver Creek. He said the disparity between housing costs and salaries in the mountain resort areas was a new issue to him.
“I’ve now heard about it several times, and it seems the higher wages in the resort areas skews things up,” Sims told the Daily after a panel discussion on housing. He was referring to the formulas agencies like HUD and the Federal Housing Administration use to distribute funds to people looking for home-buying assistance. With wages in the high country averaging higher than most, but second homes skewing the price of homes upward, Sims said “we need to adjust up.”
“We have to have a different policy for people in resort areas,” Sims said. “We can’t have people driving 90 minutes from somewhere to work in Vail.”
Sims said he was going to take the message he heard in Breckenridge back to the FHA – the agency that helps people get loans by insuring the mortgages.
“I’m going to tell the FHA to take a good look at the policy in resort areas,” he said. “It’s fascinating, this issue, and I’m sure it affects many other resort areas.”
Sims spoke at the Housing Now! luncheon Wednesday and encouraged the crowd of housing professionals to form partnerships and “make a difference.” Reciting from memory the address and phone number of the “teeny-tiny” Spokane, Wash. home in which he grew up, Sims stressed the importance of owning rather than renting a home.
“When you’re a renter, you can never plan ahead,” he said.
Sims was joined in a panel discussion by Terry Rosapep with the Federal Transit Administration and Carol Rushin of the Environmental Protection Agency. The three explained that the Obama administration has charged the agencies with working together on housing issues.
“There’s a change in perspective from the new administration,” Rosapep said. “We’re hearing the word ‘livability’ a lot, and the No. 1 goal is to reduce transportation costs for households.”
Rosapep noted that, previously, there had been little or no coordination between the housing and transportation agencies. From the EPA’s perspective, Rushin said the agency has an interest in housing as it relates to indoor pollution issues such as radon and other toxins.
“We also want to ensure that federal investments don’t subsidize sprawl but, rather, sustainable communities,” she said.
Sims said there will be major changes coming in the way the government looks at housing and how it relates to transportation. The days of “just building more highways” will give way, he said, to a more comprehensive look at how communities can be more sustainable, with less commuting.
“The biggest obstacle will be in people’s appreciation and acceptance of how much change is about to happen,” he said. “There’s going to be a huge fight over it.”
The Housing Now! conference ended Thursday.