Frequently Asked Questions

The Brown Ranch Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Video Q&A with Jason Peasley and Sheila Henderson

Jason Peasley on why we need the Brown Ranch
Sheila Henderson on how the community has been involved in planning the brown ranch

1. What is the Brown Ranch?

The Brown Ranch is a 534-acre parcel designated as a vibrant community to provide long-term affordable housing for the Routt County workforce in an efficient manner that meets the urgent need. Located on the westside of the Steamboat Springs in the designated urban growth area, the land is owned by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority (YVHA).

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2. Why do we need the Brown Ranch?
The extreme lack of affordable housing in our community is at crisis levels. There is an immediate need for 1,400 units to house current local, full- time Steamboat workers.

  1. People are doubling up in households to make ends meet, creating health and safety issues for residents.
  2. For those able to find housing, the majority are cost burdened, meaning they pay 30% or more for their housing, in both Steamboat Springs and Routt County.
  3. Local housing supply is not keeping up with the urgent need.
  4. The number of short-term rental properties and second homes within Steamboat Springs add to the challenge of providing affordable homes for our workforce.

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3. How does lack of affordable housing impact our economy?

Housing and employment are linked. There is a staff shortage among teachers, nurses, police and service industry workers due to the lack of affordable housing options.

  1. Businesses/nonprofits are reducing hours and services as they can’t find workers.
  2. Schools and medical providers can’t find workers, thus leaving positions open.
  3. The police, fire and sheriff’s departments struggle to be fully staffed.
  4. Restaurants can’t find servers and chefs. Hotels can’t find staff.
  5. More young people and families are moving because they cannot afford to live here.

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4. How did we get to this affordable housing crisis?

  1. Routt County’s working-age population (16-65), both in absolute numbers and as a share of the total population, hit a decade’s low in 2021.
    • In 2010, 74% of the population was working age. By 2021, that share had fallen to 66%.
    • The downward trend is strongest in the 24-44 age cohort.
  2. Jobs have outpaced housing production for the past ten years.
    • From 2014 to 2019, 2,100 local jobs were added to the County, which should have translated to around 1,135 local-serving housing units. Instead, only 34 net local owner units were added and four were removed from the rental inventory, while the non-local-serving seasonal rental unit inventory grew by over 300 units.
    • Housing inventory in Steamboat for both rental and owner units tend to grow at a rate of 0.5% to 1% per year, while jobs have grown closer to 2% annually.
    • Housing supply shifted to vacation rental properties while home prices skyrocketed, and inventory declined in Routt County.
  3. The cost of housing has increased more than the wages.
    • Housing costs in Routt County are two times the state average.
    • When housing costs outpace what people earn, our workforce is unable to attain affordable housing. From 2015-2021, home prices grew at about 9-10% per year, while median income grew at a rate of 2.5%.
  4. More households are spending more than 30% of their income on housing.
    • From 2014-2019, households earning between $50,000 – $100,000 paying more than 30% on housing, increased from 15% to 27%.

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5. The Brown Ranch is the Solution to the Affordable Housing Crisis

The Brown Ranch gives us the opportunity to build an inclusive and diverse community for local workers.

  1. It will allow low to middle income workers to stay, maintaining the community character that is cherished.
  2. Community members that grow up here will be able to stay in their hometown as adults.
  3. It will provide housing stability and a safe place for families, children, and adults.
  4. Homes will be affordable and won’t exceed 30% of income.
  5. People will have the mobility and the ability to rent, buy, build equity, and move up.

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6. How is the Brown Ranch different from the properties YVHA has been building?

The main difference is that the YVHA own and controls the land allowing us to maintain long term affordability.

  • The Brown Ranch will be an extension of our current operations, which rolls out a new property every year.
  • We will continue to use public private partnerships and LIHTC tax credits to build homes that will funnel into our development pipeline.
  • We will include key services since it is a non-established neighborhood.

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7. Who will live at the Brown Ranch?

Only local workers are eligible to live at the Brown Ranch. Local workers are defined as individuals who work for an employer physically located in Routt County. One person in the household must qualify (minimum of 30 hours per week) or be retired from the Routt County workforce.

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8. What will YVHA/Brown Ranch do to keep homes affordable and not another high-priced development?

YVHA will use a variety of evidence-based housing tools to help build the Brown Ranch and ensure that homes remain affordable for the Routt County workforce.

  1. YVHA is looking at different affordability financial models that have been used successfully in similar Colorado communities.
  2. For past developments in the Steamboat Springs area, YVHA has utilized federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to subsidize the acquisition and construction of affordable rental housing for low and moderate-income tenants.
  3. Other tools will be used to build homes for purchase. Lots will not be for sale.
  4. High density development will be created to keep homes affordable to rent and own.
  5. The YVHA’s mission is to support the local economy, community, and businesses of the Yampa Valley by implementing appropriate housing solutions for local workers, other qualified residents, and their families.

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9. How much will the Brown Ranch cost?

Building the necessary infrastructure for the Brown Ranch housing development could require as much as $10 million a year over the next 20 years for a total of $400,000,000*. 25% of these costs will be covered by government entities like the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and federal, state and local grants..

  1. 48% is for all infrastructure within the Brown Ranch as it is currently raw land.
  2. 18% covers US Highway 40 projects and an intersection. (CDOT)
  3. 14% pays for water and sewer upgrades.
  4. 10% for energy upgrades including a new electric grid.
  5. 10% pays for design.

*Many of these infrastructure costs would be incurred over the next 20 years with anticipated growth in the County.

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10. What is the timing for development?

The Brown Ranch plans for a staggered Phase I development to meet the current crisis. A large Phase 1 development will leverage infrastructure costs.

  1. There will be multi-family apartments similar to other YVHA projects, single family townhomes and single family detached homes.
  2. There will be a mix of for purchase and for rent homes.
  3. 1400 homes are needed now. By 2040, the goal is to have 2264 homes to meet local worker needs.
  4. 30% of units will be for 60% AMI and below (very low income)
  5. 43% will be for those earning 60-128% AMI (low-income entry level)
  6. The remaining 37% for those earning 128-256% AMI, such as teachers, and nurses etc. (move up)

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11. What services will be included at the Brown Ranch?

Over time, this will be a self-sufficient community with a future school site, a food market, access to medical, a daycare center and other retail and nonprofit services.

  1. Outdoor recreation such as parks, sports fields, bike trails and open space are accessible from all neighborhoods.
  2. This will be a community that doesn’t need to drive to town.

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12. Why does the Brown Ranch need to be annexed?

In simple terms, density requires urban services. The 2006 West Steamboat Springs Area Plan (WSSAP) which was developed by the City of Steamboat Springs and Routt County stated that “an important goal of the plan was to bring housing to the working people of Steamboat Springs.”

  1. When density is created, urban services like snow plowing, water and sewer utilities, roads, trails, parks are needed.
  2. According to the WSSAP 2006 plan, “The City of Steamboat Springs is already set up to provide urban services. Thus, annexation to the city will be required for those areas that will be developed at urban densities.”
  3. Areas not at density will stay under the jurisdiction of Routt County.

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13. The Brown Ranch is designed by and for the Community

We knew from the beginning that for the Brown Ranch to truly be for the community it had to be led by the community and to do that we had to hear from everyone!

  1. Over 3300 community members participated 220+ community meetings thus far creating a historically transparent process.
  2. The information gathered at these community meetings have been incorporated into our decisionmaking process.
  3. What we heard:
    • Businesses’ greatest struggle is finding and retaining employees.
    • There is an extreme lack of workers due to the housing crisis.
    • Residents wish to prioritize walkability and bikeability over cars. Open space, parks and community gathering places are important for connectivity and community character.
    • The majority want for sale options, especially in the entry level and move up categories.
    • Key services such as a school, daycare, medical offices, food market, and community gardens will be important for sustainability.
    • 50-69% are not happy with their current living situation due to one or more of the following: it’s unaffordable, unstable, and/or unsafe.
    • Public transportation is needed to Brown Ranch and within Brown Ranch.

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14. These Guiding Principles were created for the Brown Ranch Development

  1. Provide affordable and attainable housing options for the Routt County workforce in a timely and efficient manner that meets both urgent and long-term need.
  2. Provide quality housing that is sustainable yet flexible, modern, efficient, safe, healthy, environmentally responsible, and in harmony with existing natural systems.
  3. Be both physically and emotionally connected to the community, providing opportunity for social cohesion and successful vibrant and healthy lifestyles.
  4. The community driven process to design and develop the Brown Ranch will be inclusive, fact-based, honest, cost efficient and collaborative with all relevant stakeholders.

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15. All Brown Ranch decisions are view through a Health Equity lens.

Through this lens we determine our strategies and interventions to improve health conditions as part of the Brown Ranch development,
planning, design, and ongoing operations.
What we learned:

  1. Routt County residents are housing cost-burdened at a rate 2x more than the state average.
  2. Food at the most accessible markets (Steamboat Springs) is some of the most expensive in the state.
  3. Consistent reliable public transportation to and within the Brown Ranch is crucial.

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16. A housing development by and for the community requires continuous community support. Here’s what youcan do to help make this vision a reality.

  • Stay informed with accurate information: Sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Check out www.brownranchsteamboat.org for updates.
  • Let your local officials know you support the Brown Ranch.
  • Attend Brown Ranch community meetings.
  • Write a letter to the editor stating your support for Brown Ranch.

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