Steamboat Springs will continue to lose its middle class if elected officials don’t act on housing, committee warns
Steamboat Springs — A steering committee that has spent several months studying housing shortages in Routt County and Steamboat Springs warned local elected officials Tuesday that if action isn’t taken soon, the area is in danger of growing older and richer and losing more of its young professionals and middle class.
The committee’s presentation outlined how short the community and county are in terms of their housing supplies in the seasonal, low-income and entry-level markets.
The group estimates the area is currently 179 beds short to meet the demand for seasonal workers and 153 units short for entry-level home buyers.
Housing committee chairman Dan Pirrallo also noted that Routt County lost 12.5 percent of its middle-class households between 2010 and 2014.
He said other Western Slope counties, such as Pitkin and Eagle, actually ended up growing their middle-class households slightly.
“We are growing older, richer, faster,” Pirrallo said.
The middle-class data resonated with City Councilman Jason Lacy.
“We really have a situation where our middle-class identity is certainly at risk,” Lacy said.
Lacy supported pursuing a committee to explore possible changes to the city’s development code and planning process to bolster local housing supply.
The committee suggested elected officials take several other steps to address the housing shortfall.
The steps include forming a funding committee to determine what kind of a dedicated funding source could support the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s development of seasonal, low-income, entry-level and move-up housing, funding infrastructure that will support new development within the city’s urban growth boundary and investing in roadway and transportation options in concert with new housing developments.
The committee had an immediate recommendation to add a fee to VRBO, Airbnb and other short-term housing rentals to help fund community housing development.
City council members and Routt County commissioners resolved to spend the first month of next year weighing the proposed recommendations from the committee.
Council President Walter Magill suggested a sales tax proposal to support the development of housing might be the most worthy tax initiative in 2017.
“I think there’s a reason the community could get behind it,” he said of a sales tax increase. “They could pay a little more and get in the housing support business with the city of Steamboat Springs.”
Councilwoman Robin Crossan said the community shouldn’t close the door on newcomers to the community.
“Someone put in infrastructure so I could move in,” Crossan said. “I believe if we close the door … we are becoming an older community. How can we tell these young folks in our audience and our community that you can’t be here because we can’t give you (the chance to buy) a $300,000 house, and we can’t facilitate a developer to give you a condo or townhouse.”
Crossan said the community needs younger people moving in and staying in order to remain healthy and vibrant.
Routt County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski said she felt there was an “antigrowth part of our community,” but the community will hollow out if it doesn’t allow for growth.