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Durango City Council approves housing plan

Plan outlines strategies to encourage more affordable housing
Durango City Council approved a plan to encourage more housing construction at all levels and affordable housing units designated for low-income residents.

To meet the demand for housing in Durango, builders need to finish between 185 to 260 homes each year, a new city housing plan states.

The Durango City Council unanimously approved the plan on Tuesday to encourage developers to build more housing in town to help meet the demand.

“I am very pleased to see the housing plan process coming to fruition. It has been a long process, but I think it will provide the present and future city councils a solid policy basis for addressing the future of the community,” Mayor Dick White said in an email.

All the councilors praised the plan, which has been three years in the making.

The plan outlines strategies to encourage more housing of all kinds, put in place more market-friendly changes, prioritize density, establish a permanent housing trust fund and set up a land banking program. It also aims to establish 1,000 long-term affordable units by 2040 that would be set aside for low-income residents.

“Nothing is going to get cheaper, but we need to stem the tide of the rapid acceleration of prices,” Councilor Dean Brookie said in an interview.

In 2017, the median price of a home in Durango was $449,000, according to a recent Durango Area Association of Realtors report. The median in-town home price in 2014 was $400,000.

Finalizing the plan signals the start of more public meetings to change regulations. For example, to achieve the short-term goal of reducing parking requirements for housing, council would have to review and vote on specific reductions.

“This is a menu of potential options we could pursue,” Planner Mark Williams said.

Council expects to discuss plan implementation in February.

Other short-term goals in the plan include determining where to allow dense housing, revising the $15 fee charged for demolishing a house, allowing homeowners to build and rent out secondary housing units in more neighborhoods, and re-evaluating a local law that requires builders of larger projects to set aside units for low-income residents or pay fees. The city will also explore how to legalize existing multi-family housing in historic neighborhoods.

The long-term goals include establishing a housing trust fund and setting aside land for housing.

The city could raise money for the trust fund through a dedicated tax, real estate transfer fees imposed on developers, and fees paid by new employers building in town, among other ideas.

The money in the trust fund could buy land that could be set aside for housing and eventually sold at a reduced price or given to a developer to encourage affordable housing, the plan states.

The city raises revenue for housing through its fair-share ordinance. The law requires those who build four or more units to set aside 16 percent of the units as affordable housing or pay fees in lieu of the affordable units.

Developer Cameron Winters called on the city to revise the ordinance after his experience building an apartment complex in Three Springs.

“The cost of that land was almost equal to the cost of the fair share,” he said.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

Housing Plan (PDF)

Oct 15, 2021
Durango Planning Commission approves city housing plan
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