YVHA funds run low

Poll shows uncertainty about whether tax will pass

Local voters may be asked in November to pay a sales tax of one cent for every $10 to support the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

But Housing Authority officials acknowledged Thursday that a recent poll suggests this fall may not be the right time to ask voters to open up their wallets.

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The poll, which surveyed 470 registered voters between May 25 and June 1, showed voters may support only a small sales tax and would likely reject most tax proposals to help fund the Housing Authority.

"We think the only feasible option is to go for one-tenth of 1 percent," said Nancy Stahoviak, a member of the Housing Authority's board of directors and a Routt County Commissioner. "Support goes down dramatically as you increase the rate. Only 20 percent (of polled voters) said they would vote for a half-cent sales tax."

Oak Creek resident Sylvia Watkins-Castillo, of TriIntel, conducted the survey and prepared a 72-page report for the Housing Authority.

"With respect to the potential passage of a sales tax issue in the November 2007 election, an increase of one-tenth of 1 percent, one cent on a $10 purchase, has a likelihood of passage at this time, but higher levels of support would probably fail," the report states. "Passage at any level assumes a strong campaign is mounted to swing uncertain voters to the 'yes' vote."

The poll has a margin of error of about 4.4 percent. While 42 percent of respondents did not support any form of sales tax for the Housing Authority, 32 percent supported a sales tax. The remaining 26 percent of respondents were uncertain, and gave significantly less support for a tax as the proposed taxation rate rose.

About 52 percent of the respondents supported a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax.

"A one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax would give us operating money, but nothing else," Stahoviak said.

"It would keep the lights on and the doors open," added Mary Alice Page-Allen, president of the Housing Authority board. "But there would be nothing ... that would generate a pool of funds to help us build projects."

Page-Allen said the poll will be a valuable resource as the Housing Authority's Strategic Planning Committee works to finalize future funding plans -- which may or may not include a ballot issue.

"The poll provided a lot of information not just about the ballot initiative, but about housing in this community in general," Page-Allen said.

Watkins-Castillo noted affordable housing and sales taxes are touchy issues locally.

"Numerous comments were provided by respondents that should provide YVHA with insight into...the thinking of local residents. Suggestions for alternative funding include private enterprise, including developers and realtors; grants; alternative tax sources; and existing local government dollars," reads the report. "Within the community there is significant resistance to raising the sales tax for any purpose, and to the concept of subsidized housing. These are common feelings and perceptions in any community, but needs that must be addressed."

Stahoviak is the chairwoman of the Strategic Planning Committee. She said Routt County Commissioners Doug Monger and Diane Mitsch Bush will be invited to the Housing Authority's joint meeting with the Steamboat Springs City Council on July 10.

On Tuesday, the City Council changed a fee-in-lieu policy in its inclusionary zoning and linkage ordinance, which regulates affordable housing. Fee-in-lieu payments from developers to the city -- instead, or in-lieu, of providing required affordable housing units -- are now prohibited in much of Steamboat Springs.

Such payments have been discussed as a funding source for the Housing Authority, but have not yet been specifically earmarked.

"We still don't know what the city is going to do with any fee-in-lieu money they collect," Stahoviak said. "As far as how it would impact the YVHA, that depends on what the city is going to do."

The Housing Authority suffered a setback last week when Housing Authority Executive Director Elizabeth Black an-

nounced her resignation, effective July 15.

Page-Allen stressed that despite the funding questions and soon-to-begin search for a new director, the Housing Authority will continue work on affordable housing projects such as the Elk River Village development on Routt County Road 129.

"Our projects are going to go forward," she said. "The Housing Authority builds houses. That's our primary responsibility -- implementing the affordable housing in this community."

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