Chaffee County officials have offered the new position of Chaffee County director of housing to Becky Gray, Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker confirmed.
A panel consisting of the Chaffee County commissioners, other elected officials and a cross-section of community-minded citizens interviewed Gray Thursday, March 20. Gray currently works as director of community development and housing for the city of Pittsburg, Kan.
If Gray accepts the offer, she will be responsible for developing and implementing a regional housing plan. The county’s Housing Needs Assessment, completed in 2016, identified a housing shortage in Chaffee County, with a particular need for affordable housing for the local workforce, especially lower-income workers.
The housing director will work with the county’s Housing Policy Advisory Committee as well as developers, funders and government officials from the municipal to the federal level to find creative solutions to Chaffee County’s housing crunch. The position is funded with revenue from the county and the county’s three municipalities.
During the public interviews of finalists, County Commissioner Keith Baker emphasized that one of HPAC’s priorities is to determine whether or not Chaffee County needs a regional housing authority and, if so, what form the housing authority would take. Would it, for example, focus on financial aid, such as providing vouchers for tenants to take to private landlords, or would it manage its own properties?
Paige Judd, a local developer, stressed the need for the new director to take an active role in public education and advocacy on the issues surrounding affordable housing.
Wendell Pryor, Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation director, inquired about Gray’s experience with “opportunity zones” and community development block grants, which can use tax revenue to invest in infrastructure and other community needs.
Salida City Councilwoman Cheryl Brown-Kovacic brought up Envision Chaffee County, suggesting that the ways and means of providing affordable housing would fit with the county’s Envision process.
Gray emphasized her current position in Pittsburg and her background in providing services for the homeless. As a result, she said, she has “a deep commitment to equal housing for all income levels.”
She also pointed out her role in the redevelopment of Pittsburg’s downtown, including the renovation of historic buildings into a business incubator and student housing for the local university, a multi-year project that required coordination between property owners, developers, the town and the university.
Gray was one of two finalists from an original applicant pool of 13. A second finalist had accepted another position before interviewing.
The county made a formal offer to Gray, said Baker, but has received no word regarding her decision. The county and HPAC hope to have the position staffed by May.