New Affordable Housing Guidelines Seek to ‘Broaden the Net’
by Samantha Wright
Sep 27, 2012 | 772 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TELLURIDE – The Town of Telluride’s affordable housing guidelines recently underwent a substantial revision in response to the ever-evolving affordable housing environment. At its meeting last week, the Telluride Town Council unanimously approved several key amendments to the guidelines in a joint resolution with the Telluride Housing Authority.



“In general, the update incorporates procedural and policy improvements deriving from past experience with the administration and management of the Town’s deed-restricted program, and recent lotteries,” explained Telluride Housing Authority’s program director Lance McDonald in a memo to council.



Several key changes in the guidelines pertain specifically to renters in the affordable housing market.



For example, an asset limitation requirement for occupant candidates now applies to renters as well as buyers. As spelled out in the guidelines, the asset limitation is twice the specific unit’s allowed sales price.



Another amendment allows the Town of Telluride to construct rental units. Formerly, town-built affordable housing units had to be owner-occupied. Should the town decide to pursue a rental project, occupant qualifications and eligibility criteria for the project will be developed by the THA Subcommittee and designated by resolution of the Telluride Town Council.



The new guidelines also tweak the definition of a “tenant” to encompass “roommates.” Formerly, roommates were permitted to rent a room within an owner-occupied housing unit, provided they met the employment qualification standard spelled out in the guidelines. As amended, roommates must now be considered the same as other tenants, and thus be required to meet higher occupant qualification standards of employment, income and assets.



Several changes were made to the guidelines in order to “broaden the net” as to who is eligible for affordable housing.



In some cases, this means that more lower-income families now have a better shot at qualifying as buyers. For example, the initial maximum sale price a developer may ask for a newly developed one-bedroom mitigation unit has been lowered, with the intention of placing these units within reach for lower income applicants. Under the old regulations, a one bedroom unit cost $156,000-$209,000. Under the newly adopted amendment, that price will drop to $137,000, a 10 percent reduction.



The allowed maximum rent for such units has also been lowered by 10 percent.



Another change seeks to help more middle-income families qualify for affordable housing by raising qualifying income levels for Tier 2 housing. In this category, the allowable upper income level increased from 150 percent to 180 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).



According to McDonald, this amendment was crafted in response to experiences with recent lotteries and exception hearings, in which several potential affordable home purchasers were above the 150 percent AMI limit. (Currently a three-person household income at the 150% AMI level is $114,300, and $137,160 at the 180% level.)



The lottery procedure for town-constructed, for-sale units has also been modified to allow for a two-stage process. The first stage is reserved for participants who do not require an exception to be qualified. If any units are left over, a second lottery will be held for those applicants who require exceptions to meet qualification standards. Applicants will be entered into the lottery only if their exceptions are approved.



“This seems more fair so that people who really do qualify are getting in,” observed Councilor Bob Saunders.



Those wishing to purchase affordable housing in Telluride will now be required to obtain a fixed rate mortgage, or apply for an exception.



Council expressed support for the proposed changes, and praised the process through which they were crafted. “It has taken a lot of heavy lifting to get to this point,” observed Councilor Chris Myers. “We want to see that employees and qualified residents are retained in this community. These guidelines ensure that those we are targeting are the recipients (of affordable housing).”



Mayor Stu Fraser agreed. “This revision process has taken a tremendous amount of insight,” he said.



The Telluride Affordable Housing Guidelines were first adopted in 1994. This was only their second substantial revision; the last major update occurred in 2007. The guidelines set forth the policies for eligibility and qualifications for occupancy and ownership, and establish pricing and certain development standards, applicable to all deed-restricted units created by the Town of Telluride’s various housing programs.

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