STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO — After meeting with 230 groups and over 3300 individuals, as well as integrating the best practices of sustainable community design, the Yampa Valley Housing Authority (YVHA) unveiled their preliminary plans for the Brown Ranch affordable housing neighborhood to two packed audiences today at the Strings Pavilion.
At the start of the presentation, Executive Director Jason Peasley explained the affordable housing crisis in Routt County, “It is undisputable that we have an affordable housing crisis in Steamboat Springs. We live in a desirable place; demand has outstripped supply. We have consistently underbuilt for locals and studies show that we need 1400 homes for our current workforce. Businesses, schools, hospitals and restaurants are understaffed because potential employees can’t find housing or current employees can’t afford their existing housing. We are a community that likes to solve its own problems, and the Brown Ranch is the solution to our current affordable housing crisis.”
Sheila Henderson, Director of Community Engagement for the Brown Ranch explained the focused outreach process that was undertaken to create a neighborhood by and for the community. “We started with creating a Steering Committee of twenty community members, then we met with 230 groups and 3300 individuals. Working with our technical consultants, we also developed focus teams for housing demand, environmental sustainability, economics and stewardship, urban design and infrastructure. We listened to the community and created a neighborhood plan that reflects their needs and desires.”
Mr. Peasley explained how best practices and community input evolved into themes, “As we listened to the community over the past year, a few themes began to emerge. People want choices in housing types and want to option to buy a home, as well as the ability to move among housing types as circumstances change. Access to biking and walking trails, parks and open spaces as well as the ability to have services like food shopping, schools, and access to medical service is so important to our community and reflects our current neighborhoods like Old Town.” These elements are reflected in the vision and principles of the Brown Ranch which include: community-driven, affordable and attainable, sustainable, connected and healthy and designed through a health equity lens. Health equity is defined as the ability to access the services you need to be healthy, essentially where you like determines your health.
To provide services like access to food and medical services, the Brown Ranch requested proposals from community groups who would be interested in locating at the new neighborhood. Over 23 groups have responded including the Boys and Girls Club, Lift Up, STARS, Northwest Colorado Health and more.
At the forum, the speakers explained who can live at the Brown Ranch: individuals who currently work for a business physically located in Routt County or retired from a Routt County business. Like other YVHA properties, there will be an income verification. The homes will be for primary residences only, no lots will be sold, and short-term rentals will be prohibited. YVHA will also create community affordability agreements to ensure that affordability is continued with all subsequent owners.
Mr. Peasley explained how the Brown Ranch will be affordable over the long-term, “The cost to build homes exceeds our local workforce’s ability to pay and the commercial market cannot build affordable housing on its own. Two other for-profit groups tried and failed. YVHA’s approach is different, we are uniquely positioned to deliver affordability by bringing in outside resources, efficiencies and subsidies at every step of the development process. We got a great start with a generous donation of land, but that alone won’t close the gap. Our public outreach and planning have been grant supported by the Colorado Health Foundation, the Craig Scheckman Family Foundation, and the Colorado Division of Local Affairs as well as the community’s investment in YVHA through the 5A mill levy passed in 2017. We can access local, state and federal grants to pay for design and infrastructure construction and we have access to vertical development programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit that supported the development of The Reserves, Alpenglow Village and now Anglers Four Hundred.”
The federal government’s definition of affordable housing is spending no more than 30% of gross income on housing. YVHA’s goal is to provide such a variety of housing choices so that the local workforce can find homes that fit their definition of affordable.
The presenters stated that with the aspirational timeline, the hope is to have the first homes available at the end of 2026, which falls in line with YVHA’s desire to deliver housing projects. In 2022, the Sunlight attainable rental housing was opened. In 2023, the low-income housing on Angler’s Drive will be open and in 2024, the Mid-Valley attainable housing project will be ready.
More information can be found on the website at www.brownranchsteamboat.org including illustrations.