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Housing is complicated. As a small city, we don’t have the resources to initiate city housing projects, but we can use policies, incentives and partnerships to improve our housing situation.

Our policies focus on ensuring that residents from a mix of incomes can live in Salida. We want to keep the reasonably-priced housing we have and encourage long-term over short-term rentals.

We are mostly in the position of approving projects, and we try to negotiate the best terms we can while not discouraging builders. We want them to bring forward projects that hit some of the income levels that were not being considered even a year ago. We know we need rentals the most, and they are the hardest in which to interest builders.

Since we don’t have funds to sponsor projects ourselves, we rely on incentives to builders in exchange for rental or deed-restricted units. Deed restrictions are our mechanism to ensure that housing goes to those who work in our county rather than second home owners. We can offer free or reduced impact (tap) fees, more density or more height.

Those are the typical exchanges for housing in the ranges and types we need, but we are looking to other communities for better ideas. We have to entice builders with something, and we want growth in our population hubs, rather than sprawl in the county that takes away our open space and views.

We can’t stop growth; we can only try to manage it.

I know there are concerns about density and height as well as shorting the water/sewer fund. We have recently obtained a grant through Community Builders, a nonprofit organization that works throughout the state. We will focus on a redevelopment plan for the Highway 50 corridor with public meetings and recommendations that will address density and height variations.

We’d really like to use the Economic Development Fund to reimburse the water/sewer fund, but it has only 2 percent of our tax dollars in it. The council hopes to find creative ways to fund our incentives, but we also have to follow TABOR restrictions. We will be looking at the needs of the water fund and how to keep it healthy.

Partnerships are key. We have partnered with the county and the two other municipalities to do a housing needs assessment and establish a Housing Office. The director was hired last week.

The county-wide HPAC housing group will support that position with our committee work. We also want to engage employers to provide rental units. The housing director will help us develop a county-wide plan. Combining our resources and funds allows us to accomplish much more than we can on our own.

Housing is our greatest challenge right now, so we will continue to work on it and to learn. Thanks to those of you who send me articles and share ideas. Keep it up!

Cheryl Brown-Kovacic
Salida City Council