Garco ponies up for affordable housing
July 17, 2006
An affordable housing proposal moved $1.5 million closer to becoming a reality Monday thanks to the support of Garfield County commissioners.Commissioners voted 2-1 to provide that level of assistance to the developers of a 120-unit apartment complex that would include 84 units restricted to lower-income families. They also agreed to contribute $80,000 more toward the Keator Grove affordable housing effort in Carbondale.Commissioners Trési Houpt and John Martin approved the Glenwood Meadows expenditure, saying it offered an opportunity to take concrete action toward providing affordable housing.”I want to be involved in projects that are ready to happen so we can actually get something on the ground,” Houpt said.Developers of the Glenwood Meadows project have received development approval from the city of Glenwood Springs for the project but say soaring construction costs have driven the project’s cost from $22 million last year to $28 million now.That caused the developers to approach the county and city and ask for $2.3 million apiece in financial assistance to save the project. They more recently cut back that request to $1.8 million from each entity.Developer Robert Macgregor said the county’s contribution showed the commissioners were living up to their word when they said they want to help provide affordable housing rather than just talk about it.”If the city sees things the same way we might make it to the finish line,” Macgregor said.Developers aren’t looking for an outright monetary contribution from the city. Rather, their request is for a combination of a $1 million public improvement loan, a waiver of development fees and postponement of a park requirement.City Council last year declined to waive nearly $500,000 in fees for the project. Council was concerned about the city’s ability to do without the revenue and the appropriateness of subsidizing a private development.Council is expected to revisit the matter at the request of the developers.Martin said law precludes the county from using property taxes to participate in partnerships. The funds it will use for Glenwood Meadows will come from outside sources that could include investment returns and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which helps compensate local governments for property taxes that aren’t paid for federal land.Commissioner Larry McCown voted against the $1.5 million contribution. He said later that it represented too much of a jump forward for a county that until Monday had been taking a conservative approach to supporting affordable housing projects.”I like to walk before I run,” he said.Eventually, the Meadows project is expected to include 300 rental units that would be able to house more than 1,000 people.Geneva Powell, director of the Garfield County Housing Authority, said she has about 150 people on a waiting list because of a lack of housing stock.The authority would manage 37 units at the Meadows project, generating revenue it could use for other affordable housing efforts. The project also would allow the authority to offer people vouchers that aren’t being used now because of a lack of available rental housing.The county’s Glenwood Meadows subsidy amounts to $12,500 per unit. Earlier Monday, commissioners agreed to spend $10,000 per unit to buy down the cost of eight of 52 units at Keator Grove in Carbondale, in order to help people be able to afford the purchase of those units.