Winter Park attainable housing criteria
November 1, 2016
It is no surprise that developing a fair, consistent, affective attainable housing system in a mountain town is a huge challenge. The Town of Winter Park even went as far as hiring a Housing Coordinator to help resolve issues facing the town with attainable housing. Throughout Colorado many mountain communities are currently trying to figure out a system for attainable housing, and Winter Park has used some examples from other towns while trying to develop their own strategic plan.
The Winter Park Town Council held a workshop on November 1 to discuss issues and possibilities facing the development of attainable housing in Grand County.
Winter Park Housing Coordinator John Crone presented potential rent rates for the 38 attainable housing units that will be located at the Sitzmark North development.
The rent rates were presented with numerous scenarios based on size of family, Area Median Income (AMI) of the family, size of the apartment, and potential utility rates that will be applied to the units. The unit will have a broad spectrum of tenants based on income. The Winter Park attainable housing board will decide on the actual lease rates, but the town council was consulted to provide advice on deciding on the rates. Crone said lease rates will revised annually based on changes in income.
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There are many other factors in deciding how to pick applicants for attainable housing. Another subject discussed in the workshop was selection policies. Crone presented a packet of recommendations from staff to the council.
According to Crone, after reviewing processes used by other jurisdictions it was suggested that the town use a weighted lottery system to choose housing applicants.
Crone suggested that there are some problems with the current selection process that omit some factors that may be considered important while emphasizing factors, which do not benefit the town. The problems are becoming more apparent as larger numbers of people sign up for the housing waitlist. The selection guidelines are lacking in detail necessary for consistent application in the future, according to Crone.
The current selection process uses a point system based on certain qualifications. The point system is for potential owners and is determined upon where you currently live in the county, how long you have been in Grand County, and what part of the county you work in. Ties are determined by a lottery. A single person is eligible for a one or two bedroom unit only, while married couples or single parents with dependent children are eligible for any type of unit, including three bedroom or larger.
According to Crone, the staff feels there are four fundamental problems with utilizing the current guidelines:
The guidelines are heavily weighted towards current residency of the applicants although this criterion does not address the goals of the attainable housing program; the workforce criterion does not adequately protect the town's interest in supplying housing to the workforce (the workforce criterion supports other municipalities at Winter Park's expense); there is no provision for income as a criterion; and there are not adequate allowances for exceptions.
The stated purpose of the housing program is to strengthen the community by ensuring that members (at least 30 percent) of Winter Park's workforce can find an affordable place to live within the town limits. Although using current residency as a criterion will reward those people who have shown a more focused commitment to Winter Park itself, the current guidelines favor those who live anywhere in Grand County even at the expense of those who work in Winter Park. Whether or not someone lives in an area of Grand County other than Winter Park should not matter in the selection of applicants, according to Crone and staff.
In giving priority to those who work in other towns, Winter Park is not helping their workforce shortage in any way. This is nothing more than a subsidy for those other towns that is paid for by Winter Park.
According to the packet, staff believes that the single most important criterion in selecting housing applicants is whether the applicant works (or worked in the case of retirees) in the Town of Winter Park. Staff feels that failure to have a job in Winter Park should exclude applicants from attainable housing.
Using a weighted lottery
According to Crone, staff feels that a weighted lottery with minimal workforce criteria is the best option for selecting housing applicants. This is the form that most jurisdictions use for selecting applicants because it helps to eliminate feelings that the process is unfair.
Although the town wants to avoid the appearance that the process is unfair, it still makes sense to use certain criteria to determine initial eligibility. It is also acceptable to weight the lottery to further the town's interest in creating a vibrant community.
Two Necessary Criteria
According to Crone, almost all communities use workforce as a necessary criterion for entry into a housing lottery. The guiding vision behind the attainable housing program is to strengthen the town by providing for attainable housing for thirty percent of the workforce. The only way to reach this level is to reserve the housing for people who work in Winter Park. Towns like Telluride, Steamboat Springs and Aspen require that, at a minimum, entrants into their housing lotteries have been members of the local workforce for four years (Telluride gives credit to graduates of the local high school). Both communities then allocate additional chances in the lottery for those applicants who have been in the local workforce for longer than four years. All of these towns also make exceptions for retired applicants who had worked in the local workforce for the four years just prior to their retirement.
Winter Park's current guidelines consider workforce as one of the criteria. The current guidelines, however, award employment in any location in Grand County. This does not help out the residents of Winter Park. Going forward, staff believes that only Winter Park employment should be used as criteria, according to Crone. The staff feels the Winter Park Town Council should consider whether preference should be granted to those who work in other parts of Grand County so long as their employment can be shown to be vital to Winter Park. For example, teachers who work in either Fraser or Granby still serve Winter Park students and it is beneficial to those students to live in the same community as their teachers. Another example may be a Fraser Valley Rec Center employee who technically works in Fraser but serves the residents of Winter Park.
Income / Assets
Many of the town's attainable units will be priced to meet the needs of various income levels. The town will need to limit applicants based upon their income and assets when conducting a lottery for these units. When determining assets, the town could limit itself to real property and assets over a certain amount. Assets can be a difficult criterion to impose. The packet questions whether retirement funds should be exempt and what to do about property that is partially owned by an applicant because their relatives, or someone else, put them on a deed.
According to staff, victims of domestic violence should get priority (especially if they are currently living in town housing). If a handicap accessible unit is available and the town has a physically handicapped applicant, that applicant should get priority. If an applicant currently lives in attainable housing, the applicant could be given priority or extra chances in the lottery. The town may want to give priority to town employees or applicants who work in critical fields. The Town should reserve the right to bypass the lottery if it determines that an emergency situation exists where providing housing to a particular individual is in the town's best interest, according to staff.
There are also numerous other criteria used by other jurisdictions to limit applications or award additional choices in such a lottery. Extra criteria can help the town focus on whatever it perceives to be the best use of resources, according to staff.
While no decisions were made during the workshop, discussions will continue between the Winter Park Town Council and the Attainable Housing Board about the strategic plan.