Valley housing entities merge
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Three local entities are consolidating with the goal of tackling the affordable housing problem, by means that will include the creation of a development fund they hope will total as much as $10 million.
The Garfield County Housing Authority, Mountain Regional Housing Corporation and Roaring Fork Housing Fund are trying to complete their consolidation before mid-summer. The new organization will be called Valley Housing Partners.
The consolidation comes as a citizens group, Congregations and Schools Empowered, is pushing for a regional housing authority reaching from Aspen to Parachute. Valley Housing Partners is trying to convince all communities from Basalt to Parachute to become members.
Garfield County, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs all are members of what is now the Roaring Fork Housing Fund. The county, Basalt and Carbondale have renewed membership in what will be absorbed into Valley Housing Partners, agreeing to contribute $87,000, $20,000 and $25,000, respectively. Glenwood Springs also is being asked to renew, after previously making a $24,000 commitment.
Valley Housing Partners will have four divisions. One will administer programs such as Section 8 low-income rental housing, senior housing and deed-restricted housing. Another will focus on development of rental and for-sale properties and rehabilitation of existing ones through the use of the housing fund.
The last two divisions focus on education of home buyers, and provision of revolving loan funds for below-market loans to families, and for development and rehab of housing units.
Susan Shirley is executive director of Mountain Regional Housing Corporation and will become co-director of Valley Housing Partners along with Geneva Powell, who currently is head of the county housing authority. Shirley said the organization plans to raise $5 million to $10 million over the next three years for a housing development fund.
“We’ve set ourselves a pretty ambitious goal and we expect to meet it,” she said.
She conceded that the existing fund hasn’t grown as had been envisioned. The idea is that it will pool contributions from communities, counties, corporations, developers, school districts, individuals and others for housing development.
In late April, CASE held a meeting in Glenwood Springs on affordable housing, inviting elected officials from Aspen to Parachute. Many residents told of their difficulties finding a place to live in a market where housing costs are rising far faster than wages.
Later the same week, Shirley and Powell appeared before Glenwood Springs City Council to lay out their plans for the Valley Housing Partners and urge the city to renew its financial commitment. They provided data showing the median asking price for a three-bedroom, single-family home in Glenwood Springs was $611,900, based on 20 recent real estate listings.
City Council member Joe O’Donnell sought clarification on whether Valley Housing Partners’ plans fit in with CASE’s hopes for a regional housing authority, or could result in competing organizations.
Shirley said, “They are aware of our work and are aware of where we are. I think they want to push harder and faster.”
“… I think we would hope they would endorse what we’re doing already.”
In an interview, CASE member Tom Ziemann said CASE is trying to get governing entities on board with the Valley Housing Partners idea.
“What we’re trying to do is show that there’s community support for this,” he said.
Ziemann said the real challenge will be to get Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village to join as well. The upper Roaring Fork Valley has been seeking to create housing for 60 percent of its workers. Even if it achieves that, that still leaves 40 percent in need of housing downvalley, he said.
Valley Housing Partners is hoping to partner with upper Roaring Fork Valley governments even though it’s not asking for their membership. Shirley said it makes sense for the upper valley and other communities at least to be talking to each other about possible affordable housing solutions.
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