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Regional housing coalition carries Lamont’s legacy

Locations: News Published

There is no shortage of housing troubles and no limit to the resources and partnerships needed to strive toward an elusive resolution. The recently-formed Greater Roaring Fork Valley Housing Coalition (GRFVHC) aims to connect communities and organizations tackling the housing crisis locally. 

David Myler, a local attorney, and the late Bill Lamont, a longtime Carbondale resident and former planner, “sparked this movement several years ago,” according to GRFVHC organizer Heather Henry. The two gentlemen traveled up and down the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys meeting with community leaders. 

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Initially, Lamont’s ambition was for the group to become a multi-jurisdictional housing authority. “A housing authority has the ability to go to the voters and ask for taxes,” Myer explained to The Sopris Sun. That tax revenue can be used to finance the development of workforce housing and “a nonprofit can’t do that.” Myler referred to housing authorities as “a creature of statute and agreement. The statute provides the authority to create an authority, but it requires an intergovernmental agreement among its members.” 

When Myler and Lamont were originally canvassing municipal and county governments, “there wasn’t the political will among the local governments in the Valley to take that step.” There are currently three housing authorities operating within the Valley: Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield County Housing Authorities. 

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GRFVHC registered with the Secretary of State as a nonprofit in the beginning of April this year. One advantage of being a nonprofit, rather than a housing authority, is that fundraising can be more dynamic. Whereas housing authorities require a vote to boost tax revenue, “the nonprofit allows a bit more flexibility,” began Henry. “You could still create a taxing district that could provide flow-through funds … but we can also more easily go after grants and receive donations.” Ultimately, “you have multiple ways to put money in the nonprofit.” 

The group opted not to pursue becoming a housing authority, but agreed that, “at a minimum, we need a coalition of downvalley entities that can start to work together more collaboratively and more constructively,” explained Henry. “It’s really hard to solve the problem of housing within your own boundaries,” she continued, so tackling the seemingly insurmountable crisis entails blurring jurisdictional lines. 

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In April 2019, the Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing Study was completed, providing a comprehensive understanding to work from and the data to back it up. “We got really close to a memo of understanding as a group at the end of 2019 … and then COVID hit,” lamented Henry. 

The group’s various leaders were forced by the emergent situation to place all their efforts back within their own jurisdiction. 

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“They were just so overwhelmed — it was crazy, obviously, what it did to housing,” she continued. “So, we pretty much went dormant through all of 2020 and 2021.” 

“In just three years, things have changed significantly since that [2019] housing study,” said Henry. For instance, “The financial gap analysis has changed significantly because of the increase in housing prices,” and the level of available housing has dwindled. 

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In 2021, the state created the COVID-19 Regional Resiliency and Recovery Roadmaps Program, partnering with 16 regions throughout Colorado in service of their respective recovery efforts. Pitkin County leads the Roaring Fork Valley Roadmap group — one of the 16. The group’s focus became workforce housing. 

It worked out nicely when the Roaring Fork Valley Roadmap group became aware of the developing coalition, setting forth an opportunity for collaboration. “Everything sort of just coalesced into this one working group that picked up the ball from 2019 and got it over the finish line,” Henry stated, “getting all of the communities signed on to this multi-jurisdictional housing coalition.” 

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GRFVHC has sought guidance from the Eagle County Housing Authority and its derivative organization, The Valley Home Store (TVHS). Its programs include down payment assistance, rental assistance, a cash buyer program —“So if someone is being outbid by a cash buyer, TVHS can basically provide the cash for them to compete,” Henry explained — and a buy-down program, which private homeowners can apply for for the homes to become deed restricted once they eventually go back on the market.  

GRFVHC consists of eight foundational entities, each of which contributed $10,000 in start-up funding and will have a seat on its board of directors. These include: Pitkin and Eagle counties, Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Colorado Mountain College. Henry stressed that other entities, namely Garfield County and its Colorado River municipalities, have also been a part of discussions “and are very excited to see how things unfold and then will hopefully join the coalition.”

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In June, the new nonprofit board will convene for a strategic planning session and “from there, the board of directors will have our roadmap,” stated Henry. The coalition hopes to launch some of its programs before the end of 2022 to take advantage of American Rescue Plan Act funding that should become available through the State of Colorado later this year.

Much like TVHS, “Most of the programs that we’re looking to put in place will be geographically neutral programs,” said Henry. That means, for instance, rather than funding a housing development that would benefit one community, the assistance programs will be available to each participating jurisdiction’s constituents. 

“All of the members of the coalition are individually doing an amazing job, but they did see the benefit of a collaborative and coordinated approach toward housing on a regional basis,” said Myler. “We didn’t form this coalition because they weren’t producing housing and participating in strategies … it was that we thought that we could take it to a different level with this coalition.”

Tags: #affordable housing #Bill Lamont #Greater Roaring Fork Valley Housing Coalition #housing #Roaring Fork Valley Roadmap
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