As many of you know, my vision for Durango during my campaign for City Council was and remains:
“Durango is a diverse, multi-generational community where residents can live, work, and recreate within a vital, prosperous City that provides the services and amenities that our community values while continuing to enhance our quality of life.”
As Mayor and a City Councilor, my focus is on developing and implementing the policies that will generate the opportunities to create workforce/attainable housing for our community – think teachers, firefighters, police, city workers, nurses, managers, artists and many others.
In my conversations with business leaders and community members I have learned that the challenge of workforce housing (both rental & owned) has become the top concern and priority. Employers are having a significant challenge in attracting and retaining employees due to the housing situation.
The following is an outline of my proposal on how to make progress NOW. I want your feedback and hopefully you will feel that this is important enough to reinforce with all other City Council members. Funding is critical for success and I will provide several options at the end of this newsletter.
There is no simple single solution, it will take many funding options, organizations and tools to make a transformational difference in the housing attainability in our community.
It is important to provide an explanation of how housing is defined. It is a mistake to lump it all under “affordable” since there are distinct differences between the “affordable” and “workforce/attainable“ categories.
A universal standard defines housing as “rental, for-sale, and supportive housing units”. Within this definition, “affordable” refers to housing that is within the means of households with incomes at or below 80% of area median income (AMI) and “workforce/attainable” refers to housing that is within the means of households with incomes between 80% AMI and 125% AMI.
Affordable: This housing is subsidized by programs provided by federal, state, and local tax dollars, tax credits, bonds, rental vouchers, and other forms of subsidies. The Durango area has many different programs that have created housing such as the VOA housing in Three Springs, the Lumien development on 32nd St, Tamarin Square on 14th St, the Espero development near Manna, and programs for the homeless population. We need to keep supporting the development of affordable housing, however, programs currently exist to address this segment of the housing market.
Workforce/Attainable: The core concept is to have housing at “market rate” made possible by long term investment. Currently, HomesFund does provide some gap mortgage assistance for a limited number of families every year. As the gap between housing prices and what a family can afford widens, the HomesFund program struggles to bridge that gap.
For a household size of 4 in our area the graph below shows the incomes and what housing is attainable for our workforce, the 80 – 125% area median income earners:
|For household size of 4:||80% AMI||100% AMI||125% AMI|
|Monthly Income||$5,575||$ 6,969||$8,711|
|Monthly housing payment at 30% of income||$1,673||$ 2,091||$2,613|
|Max housing purchase price||$326,000||$418,126||$518,000|
Compare the max housing purchase price above to the chart below showing median & average housing prices in 2020:
|2020 LPC Homes||2020 Durango In-Town Homes||2020 Durango Condo/Townhomes|
|% change over 2019||15.8%||13.5%||9.4%|
More than 50% of working families in Durango are overburdened by housing costs and are not able to purchase a home. Housing costs have increased by over 20% in 2021, but area median income has not. The rental market in Durango is equally as challenging for families.
The question is, HOW do we support the growth in workforce/attainable housing?
The goal is to have market-rate workforce housing rather than subsidized housing. This means that the investors (whether they be the City or private groups) will receive a return on their investment over the long-term (20-40 years) rather than at the time the housing sells or rents. This is what allows the prices to be attainable. Additionally, it means that those $ can be used again and again.
My perspective is that it that it takes three buckets to create market-rate workforce housing:
The creation of a managing entity such as a Durango Area Housing Authority, which would secure funding and develop a revolving fund for on-going use, is needed. This entity would do 3 things: provide administration for the housing units, manage coordination of housing entities and groups, and implement specific projects.
Additionally, the further evolution of City codes toward inclusionary zoning and improved procedures would support and encourage the development of workforce housing.
Certainly, the County could be a significant and welcomed partner in this effort, but as a City Councilor I cannot speak for them.
The KEY to making workforce housing a reality is FUNDING:
One option to consider for funding:
My funding proposal to Council is three-fold:
At the will of the City Council, this crucial proposal would result in:
Honestly, I don’t know if this will be enough to create a more workforce-friendly housing market. Down the road, we may need to look at other additional sources of funding. But this is what we can do right now without raising taxes.
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(all information contained in this newsletter represents my opinion and does not reflect the views of Council unless otherwise stated.)