Spring Creek to increase number of higher-income units
Developers receive county approval to expand the number of higher-income units in Gypsum’s new Spring Creek II neighborhood
The Spring Creek Village housing development in Gypsum acquired approval from the Eagle County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to increase the number of higher-income units in its latest build, Spring Creek II.
The original covenant for Spring Creek II requires that half of the 132 units be restricted to 80% area median income rents and income, while the second half be restricted to 120% AMI rents and income. At the meeting with commissioners on Tuesday morning, Tracy Walters, the general manager of Polar Star Development, explained why this distribution has proven to not be the best option.
“What we noticed was that in most cases, any household that had two teachers didn’t qualify for the units that we were leasing, even up to 120%,” Walters said. “What that means is that we have this gap in that 100% and greater range, and the people who were applying and not qualifying were basically those people that were either civil servants, service workers, people making anything more than $25 dollars an hour were overqualified at the 120% mark.”
To remedy this issue, the developers asked for approval to reduce the number of 80% AMI units, add a number of 100% AMI units, and increase some of the 120% AMI units to 150% AMI units.
When asked by Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry how easy it was for people in the 120-150% AMI range to find other options for affordable housing in the valley, Walters had a clear answer.
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“We know it’s not there,” Walters said. “That’s sort of that dearth throughout the valley. We manage several affordable properties in Vail as well, workforce housing, and the gap between the units that we offer for workforce housing and then the free market is pretty significant. We’re renting units somewhere in the area of $2.25 per square foot — some of those free market units are pushing more like $4.5, $5 per square foot, and there’s really a gap there that we’re seeing that hasn’t been filled.”
Eagle County Chief Financial Officer Jill Klosterman was also present at the meeting, and she emphasized that this amendment would be in line with the housing department’s goals. When paired with the Spring Creek I development — which is financed through a low-income housing tax credit program and offers units at as low as 40% AMI — Klosterman said that making higher income units available will increase accessibility for a larger percentage of the working population.
“We as the housing authority have been supporting housing products that span the spectrum, mixed-use housing,” Klosterman said. “If you look at both phase one and phase two, we’ve got units for 40%, 50%, 80%, 100% and now 150%. This one neighborhood spans that whole income range, which I think is a really important thing in our philosophy around housing our workforce.”
Klosterman also noted that the Eagle County Housing Authority passed a new resolution in July 2021 that defined “low income” as meaning up to 100% of the area median income, which shifted the goal posts for serving the county’s low-income population.
“We did not have that definition when these agreements were negotiated,” Klosterman said.
The amendment also called for property tax exemption on 33 additional units, an estimated loss of about $25,000. Klosterman said that Polar Star’s managing partner had spoken with the entities that receive benefits from that property tax, and that they were “for the most part supportive” of allowing the exemption.
In exchange for these alterations, the developers agreed to make the agreement perpetual — instead of expiring at 50 years as originally planned — and to make 100% of the units rent-restricted.
The amendment passed with a unanimous vote by the county commissioners, who agreed that the 120-150% AMI population is currently being under served in workforce housing developments, and that it is an issue that needs to be remedied.
“I think it really is a missing population, and it is our school teachers, firefighters, those folks,” Chandler-Henry said. “So you think about the lack of tax revenue being a con, on the other hand, having a unit that someone who is working at Mountain Rec can go into is probably worth far more than the tax revenue they are forgiving by supporting this project.”