Assessment: Craig needs 75 affordable units to fill housing need |

Assessment: Craig needs 75 affordable units to fill housing need

A sign advertises a recently for-sale house in Craig.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

Despite recent conversions of hotels into small housing units, a city-commissioned study says Craig still needs at least 75 affordable living spaces in order to reach a “balanced market.’

At a workshop meeting before Craig’s Tuesday city council meeting, council members met with various consultants to address the housing needs in the community.

Because the assessment is still in the preliminary stage, there is no current action plan yet, consultant Willa Williford said at the workshop on Tuesday. Williford said that, based on the research, Craig has a “good news, bad news” report.

“The needs assessment, very distinguished from the action plan, is really describing what exists,” Williford said. “So your current context jobs, the housing market, how that’s been trending, and what needs and gaps there are as we look at your market now and into the future. This data sets the foundation for your action plan.”

Andrew Coburn, who handled demographics and data for the assessment, said that 42% of renter households and 20% of homeowners in Craig are considered “cost-burdened,” meaning they pay a significant amount of their income toward housing. Median income in Moffat County is $56,500.

Fast housing facts
Percentage of Craig residents under the poverty line20%
Additional for-sale homes needed for a balanced market35-50 units
Additional rental units needed25-40 units
Percentage of households that are single or married couples without children60%
Percentage of renters who pay more than 30% of their wages on housing42%
Percentage of homeowners who pay more than 30% of their wages on housing20%

“About one in five households and Craig lives below the poverty line, so that’s the level at which it’s very challenging to pay for basic life. It’s definitely not just housing, but health care, food, clothing, things of that nature,” Coburn said. “What that is sort of leading to is fairly high rates of what we call ‘cost burden,’ which means a household paying more than 30% of their gross income on their housing costs.”

In the preliminary assessment, it was reported that 60% of households in the city are single people or married couples without kids, and the average household size in the city has shrunk since 2010. That means that new homes or units that are built should be smaller to support those smaller households and tighter budgets. When the only homes that are available are built for large families, it often means that rooms in those homes go empty, and they’re usually not being rented out to anyone else. Only 2% of vacancies are being rented out as Airbnb’s or second homes, the assessment says.

“This is important because usually that sort of points to a decrease in demand for housing,” Coburn said. “But it can also point to a lack of affordable housing, or both, in this case, probably a little of both.”

The amount of jobs in Moffat County has been a “rollercoaster” over the last two decades, Coburn said. There was a large increase in job numbers through 2009, but since then, the number of jobs has steadily decreased by about 1.8% each year. When it comes to commuters in the county, Coburn estimated that a little more than 900 people drive out of the county to work in Steamboat Springs or Hayden. For someone who drives to Steamboat regularly for work, it’s estimated that they spend an extra $950 each month to do so.

In Craig, 80% of surveyed employers said that affordable housing “is either a moderate problem, one of the most serious problems or the most critical problem in the city,” Coburn said. This could become a recruitment and retention problem in the future for Craig’s workforce, he added.

“There’s a fairly distinct mismatch between the size of households in Craig and the size of home. So 68% of households, or over two-thirds of all households in the city have only one or two people in them,” Coburn said. “Only 11% of the housing stock consists of studios and one bedroom. That does sort of point to a kind of a misalignment of housing — housing size relative to household size. Also, it’s important to note that there have only been 46 new residential units added to the inventory in the last 10 years.”

All of those new units except for one have been single-family homes or mobile homes.

With these conclusions come challenges in the near future. According to the assessment, the aging population of Craig could have difficulty finding housing if the housing market does not change. The school-age population is decreasing as well, furthering the need for smaller family units.

Even with the conversion of some hotels into long-term housing, Williford said the problem persists. Many of those rooms were already being used as long-term housing by families who lived from hotel to hotel, she said, so only some of those new studio apartments were figured into the total.

These conversions do absorb some of the need, but the consultants still estimated that at least 35 for-sale units are needed for a balanced market, and between 25 and 40 rental units are needed to serve Craig moving into the near future. The biggest gaps are in one- and two-bedroom units, rental housing under $735 per month (the rate for housing relative to the area median income), new construction and small homes for first-time buyers and retirees.

Williford also noted the “down valley” effect that housing issues in Steamboat Springs have had on the Craig market — especially when it comes to citizens commuting extensively to work jobs in Routt County.

When it comes to future building, location is important to consider, consultant Jonathan Cappelli said on Tuesday. When building lower-income housing, proximity to services is important, as many of these households may not have access to a vehicle.

A final version of the assessment will be presented in the coming months, but the consultants will continue to provide recommendations and research potential options for action — whether it’s city-led or led by private developers is still undecided. They have identified potential locations and structures that could be used in the future, but those decisions would be made in the action plan.

“In summary, we want to make sure we’re appreciating that a lot of things are in flux in Craig, and that if we are able to continue to monitor the market, (we can) take some incremental steps to address significant needs and gaps,” Williford said. “Let’s see how things go. Were we able to start to fill some of those unfilled jobs that are creating such a dream of hospital, college and the local government? Is economic development getting traction with recruiting new employers with higher paid positions and us responding in kind in the housing market?”

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