How does $300/month sound?
A proposal for a three-story, 30-unit affordable housing rental complex is taking shape in the north end of the valley. The Gunnison Valley Housing Authority is taking the lead on a proposed $6 million project on the McGill property on Crested Butte’s southeast side.
Housing Authority board chairperson David Owen and executive director Karl Fulmer have been meeting for months with the prospective developers to iron out the details of funding such a major project, consisting primarily of one-bedroom units, with six two-bedroom apartments. They would all be rental units.
In a 2009 housing needs assessment produced by Melanie Rees of Rees Consulting, rental properties proved to be in demand across the county, but especially in the upper valley. If successful, this project would be the first of its kind in the greater Crested Butte community.
Part of what makes it unique is a partnership with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), which hasn’t collaborated with the Housing Authority on a project locally. It’s also the Housing Authority’s first foray into a development project since striking out on its own.
“I started in mid-November of 2012. [The developer and architect] approached me about a month after I got on the job,” Fulmer said.
But the stars started to align. Not only did Fulmer have experience building rental properties in the private sector, he had development partners interested in pushing the project forward and an independent revenue source from a valuable 960-acre piece of private property in the Fossil Ridge recreation area that was being parsed out to an eager Forest Service. A recent appraisal of the Fossil Ridge property set the value as high as $4.5 million and the first exchange would net the Housing Authority more than $1.5 million.
In that arrangement, the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation (GVHF) is brokering a deal with the Forest Service to sell 330 acres of the property to the Forest Service, which is then making it available to the owners of the old Homestake uranium mine near Sargents, who need the land to complete reclamation work at the site.
“Part of it has been luck,” Fulmer said. “The Housing Foundation will have money from that first phase of the land exchange. And the timing of their exchange is falling in line with the tax credit application and is really getting this project off the ground.”
The Housing Authority is tentatively getting $300,000 from the GVHF and a $250,000 contribution to the project from the Gunnison County housing linkage fund that was set up to help affordable housing projects, although the commissioners haven’t officially voted on the allocation. Fulmer is also going to the towns to see if they’d be willing to chip in, asking for about $12,500 from the town of Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte Mountain Resort and $50,000 from Crested Butte, where the project would be located.
“The town has tried to put in this kind of [Low Income Housing Tax Credit] project for years,” the project’s principal architect and originator, Bill Coburn, told the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council at a meeting Tuesday, August 20. “But it takes a parcel and the group like the people we’ve assembled to do this sort of thing.”
Gaining the support of the towns will be important, Fulmer said, when the Housing Authority goes to CHFA with a grant application. Although CHFA doesn’t give out cash, it gives out tax credits handed down from the federal government that can be exchanged for funding.
“The federal government, through the IRS, issues low-income housing tax credits and allocates a certain amount to every state,” Fulmer explained. “CHFA is the state entity that allocates Colorado’s tax credit allotment for that year … It’s built a lot of affordable housing over the years.”
Owen said this project should target lower-income residents who haven’t seen much help in the past. “This project addresses housing needs at lower incomes than any of our other housing projects,” Owen explained. “Most current deed-restricted properties either have a simple residency requirement or hit area median incomes [AMIs] of between 80 percent and 120 percent. These units will be deed restricted to 30 to 60 percent AMIs. And the rents will be affordable to those AMI levels for 40 years.”
Owen said another benefit of the project is that it could bring jobs to local contractors and workers.
In a memo to the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council, Fulmer wrote, “As a low-income housing tax credit property, the Crested Butte apartments will serve households earning 60 percent of AMI or less per year”—less than $28,860 for a single-person household. He later explained that several apartments in the new building would be available to qualified renters at just over $300 a month.
At a meeting on Tuesday, August 20, the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council voted to be the first to allocate funding to the project, agreeing to the full $12,500 request for pre-application costs, meaning the money will need to be available by October 1. However no money will be released until all of the other entities commit funds.
Mayor William Buck said he had been on and off the Housing Authority board for years and feels the need for affordable rental housing is clear. “I applaud the effort that’s been made to this point. It will be a real benefit to the upper valley as well as the entire county.”
The Housing Authority’s application is due to CHFA by March 2014. CHFA will then conduct two separate awards, one in April and another in August 2014.