Colorado Town Addresses Housing Affordability Through Intensive Planning and Development

Filed in Affordability, Land Development by on April 8, 2019 0 Comments

Although there is no “silver bullet” solution to the challenge of making housing more affordable, planning for greater housing affordability is an important first step. Communities can enhance affordability with a comprehensive planning and development framework. The best plans incorporate job growth as well as housing needs and supply to inform zoning decisions.

Take the town of Frisco, in Summit County, Colo., for example. Frisco enjoys the tourist economy of Colorado mountain towns but is also familiar with the housing challenges typical of resort communities: a rapidly growing population, high housing and construction costs that outpace wages, and many second homes with part-time occupancy.

To address a need for affordable housing for local year-round working residents, Frisco undertook an intensive planning and development process, partnering with Ten Mile Partners, LLC to produce the Peak One Neighborhood, a community of 69 single-family homes and duplexes.

The intensive public involvement and careful master planning to produce Peak One resulted in an end product that is an outstanding asset to the community. Photo courtesy of Brynn Grey Partners Ltd.

Summit County is home to famous ski resorts, including Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain. The resident population of Frisco is about 30,000 — but during the ski season and summer holidays, the county population swells to more than 100,000. Frisco is also surrounded by U.S. Forest Service property that creates limits on developable land.

“Only 35% of our housing stock was for full-time residents. The rest were for vacation homes. Town council leadership recognized that we needed people to live and work in the community, and directed staff to work on a master planning process on how to develop the Peak One parcel,” said Jocelyn Mills, former community development director for the Town of Frisco.

Affordable Housing Support

The Town of Frisco worked closely with the Summit Combined Housing Authority (SCHA) to coordinate its housing projects and programs with other countywide efforts. The SCHA, established in 2002, serves as an important resource to support the development of affordable and workforce housing throughout the county. A 2005 Housing Needs Assessment commissioned by SCHA created an important awareness and specific numbers that documented the growing housing challenges in the community. This assessment, updated in 2013, also helped to generate substantial voter support for funding affordable housing.

Voters in Summit County have been supportive of creating funding sources to address local housing needs. In 2015, voters renewed Measure 5A, a dedicated sales and use tax and development impact fee first to fund local resident and affordable workforce housing in the county. Between 2007 and 2015, 5A generated more than $13 million in revenue, used to purchase and develop land for workforce housing and create 335 housing units. The Town of Frisco has used 5A funds to waive a variety of development fees to lower the cost of development, as well as set aside funds for downpayments and home-financing assistance.

Another important goal of the project was to create homes that are as energy efficient as possible so that the home owners will benefit with lower utility bills over the life spans of their homes. Photo courtesy of Brynn Grey Partners Ltd.

The Town of Frisco established its own affordable housing policies in 2008, modeled after county and state policies. The town’s priority is to support programs and incentives that provide housing opportunities for persons who are actively employed in Frisco and Summit County.

Key Factors for Success:

  • The donation of town-owned land for affordable housing development
  • Strong local affordable housing policies
  • Dedicated funding to support affordable housing
  • Successful public engagement and comprehensive master planning
  • Deed restrictions for qualified incomes and residency
  • Limited equity appreciation for permanent affordability

For more housing affordability resources, including the full case study on the Peak One neighborhood in Frisco, visit nahb.org/housingforall and the Land Use 101 toolkit at nahb.org/lu101. The toolkit also includes access to the full How Did They Do It? report.

Deborah L. Myerson, AICP — author of the How Did They Do It? Report — contributed to the content of this article. Myerson is an urban planner with 20 years of experience in housing, community development, land use and transportation policy, and urban revitalization.

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