In a move that has been in the works since 2016, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) unanimously approved the draft of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that will create the county’s Multi-jurisdictional Housing Authority (MJHA). This quasi-judicial body will take on the leadership of assuring that the workforce housing and affordable housing needs of the county will continue to be a focus as Chaffee County grows and changes.
“I feel like we’re about to break through on this effort,” said Chaffee Office of Housing Director Becky Gray, speaking after the county commissioner vote. But she acknowledged that while the county has travelled a long way to reach this point, legislative steps remain.
The vote by the county was but the first step in the IGA approval process. That same evening of Sept. 15, the IGA came before the Salida City Council and also got a unanimous vote of approval.
The IGA is on the agenda for tonight’s Sept. 22 Buena Vista Trustees meeting, and the final hurdle remaining will be its review during the Sept. 28 Poncha Springs Trustee’s meeting. Assuming all approve, the next steps involve the actual formation of a MJHA board.
This important step did not happen overnight: it has been in the works for years, ever since a 2016 Housing Needs Assessment clearly laid out the urgency.
From the many important findings of that assessment, it was made numerically clear that the county had a dire need to protect and enlarge the county’s supply of workforce and affordable housing or face becoming another Pitkin or Eagle County, where the workforce can’t afford to live where they work.
Immediately, concerned leaders and community groups, together with the county commissioners (Greg Felt and Keith Baker were early participants in the formation meetings) and municipal leaders convened a group, known as the Housing Policy Advisory Committee (HPAC). It met regularly to absorb the data and chart action steps, including the need to educate the county on the need, the urgency, and the possible approaches to address the need.
Two key steps were apparent — there was a need to begin and fund the process inside the county government by the creation of an Office of Housing, and long-term, the county would need to create an MJHA, which could seek outside funding, grants, tax credits and more to support the creation of workforce housing. The Office of Housing came first; mutually funded by the county and with representative financial support from the three major municipalities. At this point, Gray arrived to shepherd this initiation effort, and she led the IGA discussions.
” I want to give special recognition to Becky Gray for her tenacity and to [Assistant County Attorney] Daniel Tom, and all three commissioners for participating,” said Chaffee Director of General Administration Bob Christiansen. “The doc you have has the final redline comments and it’s representative of an untold number of hours.” He pointed out that in preparation for consideration of the IGA by the county and municipalities, the Office of Housing reached out to other organizations that work in the arena of affordable housing and received a positive response.
Gray reminded those assembled of the laborious process that the creation of the IGA has followed.
“Since 2016 the creation of the MJHA has been a recommendation of the HPAC, so when I convened a steering committee of the BoCC and an elected member of every governing body and an administrator from every jurisdiction we all decided to make this happen,” said Gray. “We held nine meetings between Aug. 2019 and Aug. 2020. Together, we agreed the best approach to setting up the organizational structure was through an IGA, not a ballot measure.”
The MJHA will operate under bylaws in which the government leaders have participated in creating. It will be governed by a nine-member board of directors, including two representatives of each jurisdiction appointed by their governing bodies. The participants have agreed on a funding formula (similar to the one used to create the Office of Housing). The county contributes a portion of the operating budget not to exceed 75 percent of the cost. The remainder is split pro-rata among the jurisdictions based on population.
“I think we need to make an option and some statement that we reserve the right to revisit it if (any of) the other three jurisdictions don’t approve it,” said Baker. He followed that with a motion to approve the IGA, added a caveat protecting the agreement; that should one of the municipalities suddenly decide not to participate, the agreement would return to the BoCC to revise how to proceed. ”
“Process-wise, my gut tells me to assume we are going forward; we’ve approved it subject to approval by the other jurisdictions,” said Felt. “At some point, we all put our guns down at once.”