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Bayfield Town Board leery of joining Housing Authority
10/12/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
Bayfield is doing its part to provide affordable housing for working folks.
That was the sentiment of town trustees at their Oct. 2 meeting to a new request to join the county-wide Regional Housing Authority (now Alliance).
Ignacio, Durango, and the county are already signed on. Bayfield trustees voted against participation when RHA was formed by the other entities several years ago.
Urging town participation on Oct. 2 were RHA director Jennifer Lopez and RHA board members Balty Quintana (Ignacio town manager), and Joelle Riddle (La Plata county commissioner). They want the town to include membership in its 2008 budget.
At issue were the annual membership dues of $14,000 or more for Bayfield, and whether any RHA tax could be imposed on the town without its consent.
Town Manager Justin Clifton presented a memo with pros and cons of RHA participation. The town’s big interest is making something happen with the Fox Farm affordable housing project, and with future oversight of that project such as enforcing the covenants. The town doesn’t enforce subdivision covenants.
The authority takes on things that can’t be done effectively by individual local governments, Clifton said. He speculated that Bayfield might get as much or more out of RHA participation than the cost of joining.
“But the $14,000 is a lot, and money is tight. Finding a place for it in the budget will be hard,” Clifton said. “There are a lot of areas where we could use the money to address problems.”
He also said, “I don’t think affordable housing is the same issue here that it is in other areas, especially Durango.” He expects housing prices in Bayfield to continue to be pushed up as prices escalate in Durango.
So does town planner Joe Crain. He thought membership could be worth the money, if the town can find the money. “I don’t think Fox Farm will proceed like we want it to without some assistance by someone other than the (non-profit developer).”
Fox Farm still has 18 lots for sale. Others have been bought in blocks by affordable housing groups. Crain advised this week that Pagosa-based Colorado Housing Inc. has applied for building permits for four duplexes (eight units).
There was a lot of board sentiment that the problem is centered in Durango, and Bayfield is being asked to deal with it, on top of around $147,000 in fees the town waived to help the Fox Farm project.
Lopez said RHA can do needs assessments for housing needs in each community. They have loans for downpayment assistance to households making 80 percent or less of the area median income. Those will be distributed on a first-come basis. They also hold classes for potential home buyers.
County-wide the people who need help are making $30,000 to $70,000 a year, Lopez said. Downpayment and credit qualification are the main barriers.
Mayor Jim Harrmann wanted to know if RHA requires project homes to be stick-built. Lopez said they require permanent foundations.
“So it could be mobiles? That doesn’t get people where they need to be” if they are renting a space, Harrmann said. “There are a lot of people who say ‘We want to give these people affordable homes,’ but they are talking trailer courts.”