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BoCC Ponders Hybrid Ballot Question to Calm Critics and Address Workforce Housing Crisis

It couldn’t quite be called a curve ball, but during the Chaffee Board of County Commissioner’s Aug. 16 meeting in Buena Vista, the ballot question discussion related to housing took a turn. Two separate ballot questions both either directly or indirectly related to workforce housing are being considered:

  • One, a potential 3.5 mills of property tax to fund workforce housing options, that would be put forth by the Chaffee MultiJurisdictional Housing Authority;
  • The second is a proposal to reallocate some as-yet-undetermined percentage of the county’s approximately $1.3 million annual lodging tax from a full allocation to the Visitor’s Bureau, into other critical needs, with workforce housing at the top of the list.

The BoCC discussion was continued to a special session beginning at 10:00 a.m. on August 22 2022 as part of a BoCC Special Meeting to be held in the Commissioners Meeting Room at 104 Crestone Ave., Salida. (It follows a two-hour discussion of the first draft of the first section of a new county Land Use Code that begins at 8:00 a.m.).

 

During the Aug. 16 BoCC discussion, Chair Greg Felt said he was concerned that the property tax effort might not gain the necessary support, and noted that some in the community indicate they aren’t pleased with any amount of property tax going to Housing Authority administrative overhead. “They’d rather see shovel-in-the-ground programs,” explained Felt.

He floated the idea of creating a combined ballot effort, possibly reducing the property mills to 2.5 mills all focused on actual programs and projects, combined with allocating a portion of the Lodging tax to cover the actual administrative overhead of the Housing Authority for some period of time.

Commissioners expressed various concerns regarding reallocating the Lodging tax, some noting that there is still a crisis for childcare in the county that goes hand-in-hand with the housing crisis. Also raised was the success of the Visitor’s Bureau educational message in the tourism marketing campaigns, which it appears are inviting a much more environmentally-aware audience to Chaffee County.

Director of Housing Becky Gray has said on more than one occasion that “We’re learning that we just don’t have available housing here in Chaffee County at all! It’s different than even two years ago when the pandemic started.” She adds, “there is lots of interest in the Salida Open Doors program – lots of interest from local employers … we are learning the cost of operating these programs, but it takes staff time to qualify the tenants.”

All commissioners agreed that the county has to address the critical shortage of long-term workforce housing because it is vital to the economic vitality of the county. The multi-jurisdictional support for the Housing Authority administration sunsets in 2024, so some other form of funding must be found.

The Chaffee Housing Authority’s Strategic Plan and the 2022 Housing Needs Assessment, can be found at https://www.chaffeehousingauthority.org/our-plan.  The latest Chaffee County Housing Needs Assessment reveals the extent of the crisis: we need 1,105 more workforce housing units by 2027. Of this total, 435 are needed now to fill unfilled jobs, even counting pending development.

The full BoCC meeting agenda is now available at https://chaffeecoco.civicclerk.com Meetings are held in person and available via Zoom.  The link is at the top of each agenda and the full agenda is available here: Aug 22 2022 BOCC Special Meeting Agenda