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February 10, 2005: Detail


Randy Piper wants to help people
build their own log homes.

Bob Bloch asks about the proposed ballot initiative.

Affordable Housing in Summit County

July 13, 2006  Summit County Senior Resource Center

Our Future Summit sponsored a forum on July 13th featuring a panel  and audience discussion on one of the most crucial issues in Summit County – the future of affordable housing in Summit County.  

 The forum moderated by Our Future Summit President Howard Hallman, consisted of:
Bonnie Osborn
, ex - president of the Summit County School Board who is now the executive director of the Summit Housing Authority.  The mission of the housing authority is “to build a stronger community by creating housing opportunities that help keep our neighbors living here”

Dan Fallon, a member of the Frisco town council, is  an eighteen-year resident with a keen interest in affordable housing. A successful small businessman, he owns and operates a nightclub, Chill, and two restaurants, Peppino’s, and Po’ Boys along Frisco’s Main Street

David O’Neil is a founder of Breckenridge’s Wellington neighborhood. David has been involved in several public sector, private sector and/or non-profit projects, including development of the Poplar Project (an affordable housing joint venture with the City of Boulder) and serving on the Governor's Affordable Housing Task Force.

Steve Novy, is the  founder of NOVY Architects  in Carbondale, which has grown into an employee-owned firm now known as Green Line Architects, PC. Says Novy, “As community-minded architects, we insist on working in a team environment to achieve sustainable solutions. We strive to create responsibly, through conscientious whole systems design. The energy efficient NextGen Homes at Blue Creek Ranch in Carbondale is an example of their work with affordable housing.   http://www.nextgenhomes.net/

Don Wheatly of  Intrawest is Director of Development for Copper Mountain and an experienced member of  affordable housing initiatives in Palo Alto, California and Commerce City, Colorado.

 Howard Hallman, President of Our Future Summit,  introduced each panelist and asked for opening remarks from each panelist.

Bonnie Osborn started by asking herself three questions.

What are our needs?  What does Summit Hosing authority do? Where do we go from here?

According to an independent study, the county  needs 2175 units now and 3000 units by 2010  to meet the needs of the workforce.  Local employers  such as the  sheriff’s office and the new hospital can attest to the difficulty of keeping  and recruiting  employees who can afford to live here on a salary.  Businesses are faced with paying wages out of line with business in other locations, or face the costs of constantly training new employees.  Wages have  increased 6.2%  per year while housing cost rise  16% per year.  It takes a yearly income  of  77K , with no debt, to qualify for a loan  for an average condo in  Breckenridge  priced at $315 thousand .  Most people  working for a wage in Summit County can not afford an entry level home in the area.

The Summit Housing Authority  (SHA) provides down payment assistant in the form of loans.  The housing authority has educated over 1500 people in consumer education classes, teaching people how to work with realtors, mortgage lenders and how to improve their credit rating. The SHA also provides deed monitoring. Services are not available for illegal aliens. “We need to keep local human resources in the community,” Osborn says, “ its past time for the community to step up and look for global solutions to the problem.”

The SHA Board has passed a motion that the SHA should proposes a ballot initiative for a sales tax increase and impact fees to fund an affordable housing commission for the county. To reach the ballot initiative stage, the SHA must receive approval from local town councils, the county commission, The Summit County Builders Association, and the Board of Realtors. If the process is successful, a multi jurisdictional board will be created. Sales tax will be used for administration costs.  Impact fees, by law must be used for acquisition of capital. Money collected in each part of the county will be used in the jurisdiction where it was collected. 

Dan Fallon is a Frisco Town Council member and local business owner. After arriving in Summit County in 1990, Fallon was able to purchase a small condo for $40,000. Such a home would cost a worker over $200,000 today. The rise in housing costs is discouraging local workers form settling in the county. This is costing businesses trained and committed workers, who serve the community and become an important part of the counties sustainable economy. We are not just losing workers, but service professionals, entrepreneurial spirit, and community vitality. For a community that invests so much public money in the development of recreational resources, marketing those amenities to draw consumers to the area, isn’t it wise to invest in the workers who serve those who live in and visit the area. Business owners endure a variety of pressures that make it difficult to pay wages that will keep up with housing costs. Coupled with the costs of recruiting and training new employers, many local business people are leaving the county. as well. The need for solutions to preserve our local human resources is urgent, and the problem is county wide.  Local policy initiatives are helpful but not always successful. Investment in the community is needed.

David O”Neil  arrived ten years ago and got started in the Wellington Neighbor. His work has been called a model for the entire state, earned national awards, and been featured in national magazines. ONeil believes in creating a vision for the community and letting the vision drive the process. Features for the Wellington Neighborhood include creating a traditional neighborhood that fits he community culturally, architecturally, and recreationally. The result is a real community of people who live in their homes and are part of the community. By deliberately focusing on qualitative issues instead of quantitative issues has helped to meet the needs of the community.

 John Wheatly  recalls  growing up in  Palo Alto, California prior to the tech boom of the 1980’s, could not afford to purchase a home there when he grew up. He had to live further and further  outside the town so he became involved in affordable housing organizations.  Since moving to Colorado he has been involved  with  a 1000  unit housing development that  included a significant amount of affordable housing. “Its a very difficult process,” says Wheatly, “grant money is hard to come by and has so much red tape and regulations attached to it.”  He also cited the difficulty of finding low cost land, capable contractors, and neighbors who are comfortable this type of development.  As Director of Development at Copper Mountain, John is involved with

Intrawest’s PUD proposal for Copper. The plan does include 60 units of affordable housing. Copper Mountain also provides 400 units of employee housing, but John admits it is not enough.

Steve Novy of  Green Line Architects,  is committed to planning affordable housing the meets the needs of the community for which it is designed. Housing should be energy efficient, durable, and comfortable. The development needs to fit in the community and feel like home.  ‘There are incredible opportunities,” says Novy, “but you need to be very clear of what it is you are building.”

There are great resources available for those interested in affordable housing including:
A Builder's Guide to Marketable, Affordable, and Durable Entry-level Homes (MADE) To Last  (http://www.huduser.org/publications/destech/made.html,

www.nextgen.net  and www.designadvisor.org.  His designs are in the public domain and can be used for affordable housing anywhere.  He believes that modern construction and design can increase energy efficiency by over 20% without increasing the cost of the home.

 After the opening statements Howard posed questions to each of the panelists.  First was to Bonnie Osborn – “You have two voters, one a current homeowner, and another a renter, why should each of them vote for the affordable housing initiative?  Bonnie asked back, “Do you know what initiative will say? We don’t either.” If this proposal is offered all voters should support us as an investment in the community. Renters may benefit by receiving guidance and down payment assistance from the newly created housing authority.

Dan Fallon, was asked “Why should the public participate in affordable housing?  Shouldn’t we let the free market take over?”   Dan replied that the public already invests in infrastructure in many ways such as transportation, open space and parks and marketing to bring business to the area. Doesn’t it make sense to invest in our human resources as well? The free market has not come through even with local target policy initiatives.  We need to look at affordable housing as investment in the character of our community.

“Is our market out of balance?” Howard asked David O’Neil, “Should I move to Leadville?”

O”Neil replied that in most communities residents compete in a balanced housing market. In a resort community the limited number of homes are being bought by people making incomes form all over the world. The market is upside down.

 “Why can’t developers fix this John?” Howard asked Wheatly.
“Land is required.” he replied, “ It’s scarce, expensive, and  hard to get.”  Fee waivers might help he added. We often have to pay up to $20 per square foot in fees. The “not in my back yard syndrome” is another factor.

 Next Steve was asked, “Can’t we just build places smaller and not as fancy?”
We can build smaller.  Steve lived in Japan and witnessed real space efficiency. “We feel more is better, and that may not be true,” he replied, “Good design has to be demanded.”  By  planning  for storage and understanding  how people can put there stuff away, we can help reduce the size of homes. He feels it is possible to create flexible space in affordable housing to allow owners to finish out basements and build decks to create sweat equity in deed restricted residences.

More density can be allowed in town cores, which already have an infrastructure. This may be the best way to revitalize a community.
The floor was opened to questions and comments from the audience.  

Bob Bloch  a Frisco resident asked how the initiative will be structured.
 Bonnie replied that a ballot measure has not been drawn up yet, but impact fees have  to be used for capital. In the previous election the initiative was presented in two parts. The impact fees passed but the sales tax increase failed. The impact of the sales tax increase would be 1.3 mil increase in sales tax approximately $50 a person a year, if we do not have tourist visit the county. Of course in reality, non residents would pay a large part of the local sales tax and the impact on county residents will be much less.

Impact fees would be along the following guidelines: homes smaller than 1500 sq ft or less no fees.  Homes 1500 to 25o0 would have an impact fee of .50 per sq foot, homes between 2500 to 5000  would include a $1.00 per sq ft fee, and homes over 5,00o sq ft would be assessed  2.00 per sq. ft. fee. This would be on new construction only. The fee could be charged when certificate of occupancy is filed saving a builder a years worth of interest.  Exemptions for local workers who build their own homes could be arranged. This would total a mil levy of  $2 per year. If the money is not spent in three years it goes into a pot for future use. No property tax increase is part of this proposal.

Pam Boyd is a realtor who supports the SHA. In the past year she had limited success in finding housing for local residents with 1 client able to purchase a home and three clients leaving the county after failing to qualify.

How can we give incentives to builders to do what you are doing?

 Steve indicated that we need  to attract people who are predisposed to community needs. Developers must be willing to talk to people to find out what the  community needs and try to meet those needs.   He has seen a developer who met with local opposition at a town meeting, contact each of those people, listen to their concerns and modify  his development to meet those concerns.

Randy Piper is a Grand County resident who is working with partners to start local building products business  that uses local materials including timber form Mountain Pine Beetle affected trees. The large picture for Piper includes training people for success in his “Life Skills University” by stressing financial planning and life skills. The end result would be help in building their own homes with community support. Piper feels that building simple log homes using inexpensive lumber could be a solution to the areas housing problems.

Can we be using different materials to bring down cost. How are people part of this process of affordable housing? 

Steve answered.  Building can be a wasteful process. New School framing uses 25% less wood and can be more energy efficient. Current construction methods can cause 30 to 40 % waste of materials used in construction. Simplify during the design process to be careful with material use. Structured insulating panels are an improvement in efficient building materials, this may not be the most affordable solution but it is the material of the day. Lowering the costs of structured insulating panels would help reduce building costs of well made houses.

 David  insists that the building process is a very complex with variety of contractors, sub contractors, workers.  With building inspectors, checking every step, and tort attorneys looking for every mistake, contractors and designers must be very deliberate in trying new construction processes.  A strong galvanizing vision can hope to order a society.  Preserving the community character through affordable housing must be expressed in a strong vision statement.

Vision needs to drive the process.

Several audience members expressed their reservations in forming a funded county wide housing authority.  Citing abuses in the system with people gaining financial benefit improperly at tax payers expense.  Others asked why the public should pay the bill for what is often a business problem. Some questioned the will of the voters to accept creating another governmental agency at tax payers expense. Constance Jones, Director of the Summit Chamber of  Commerce asked if there were other creative solutions other than asking the residents and visitors to pay for the solutions.

Jennifer Kermode  believes that part of the answer is educating people how to make smart life choices in order to have a house. Other audience members felt that it was a fair risk  to provide opportunities for local workers to remain in the county even if some people abused the system.

Bonnie Osborn cited the NWCOG report on the impact of second home buyers on the economy. Business owners would have to pay 10 times the national medium income for their local employees in resort communities to afford their own homes

Dan stated that we create a benchmark of somewhere to start. Most people have to make a tremendous amount of sacrifice to be able to afford a home here locally.  We are not looking for nostalgia, but  to  maintain a local resource and community value.  Local businesses are

committed to keeping wages up instead of losing employees. We are investing in promotion and amenities  to drive economy artificially with marinas playgrounds etc. Building a housing authority to retain human resources is an investment in the community.

County Commissioner Bob French asked, “How would you sell this ballot initiative?”

Dave suggested that there be a defining vision. Consider what  the public sector does  well vs the private sector. Talk about the community character.

John  added that its about the quality of life for the people who provide the services.

Dan felt we sell this as an investment for community and business.

A visitor form Houston whose son lives in Frisco and loves it, but gets paid less than minimum wage and has to rent for over $1000 each month. She wishes she could help, but think he needs to move home.

Each panelist was asked to wrap up the meeting with their thoughts

David enjoyed comments by other panelists learned a lot  in the forum.

Steve enjoyed the parallel between the cars and housing. Wishes people would build houses with the same simplicity as cars. People need to take the same pride  their houses as their cars.

Bonnie agrees that a vision statement is needed for SHA. Glad the word project was not used , it is not what we are looking to do. Creating the commission would be the first countywide public entity.

John this forum is a great start for finding out what type of solutions are needed and what the citizens want to do.

Don is proud to support the SHA. Town of Frisco is trying to work on local solutions and has overcome some obstacles but is still working on keeping the resource.

The meeting lasted until 9:30 half an hour longer than planned.

The next Our Future Summit Meeting will be held on Aug 10 at the  Silverthorne Library.


















Howard Hallman introduces the panel.






















Bonnie Osborn explains how the Summit Housing Authority helps people purchase homes.
































Summit County residents listen to questions about the state of affordable housing in Summit County.

As a mortgage broker Jennifer Kermode  knows how difficult it is for workers to buy a home in Summit County.




Our Future Summit hosts a full house.











































Comments and questions can be directed to:

 Howard Hallman, PO Box 209, Frisco, CO 80443

970-468-9134 or hhallman@ourfuturesummit.org