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Durango City Council identifies money for workforce housing

Durango Mayor Kim Baxter
Councilors discuss parameters for income range that would be targeted

In a daylong meeting Thursday to discuss workforce housing, the Durango City Council worked to define housing needs and identify funding for housing projects.

“I think the big takeaway is that if you’re working with an elected body you have to make sure that you have alignment on the direction that you’re going, and I think we came to alignment on how important housing is for our community to maintain its character,” Durango Mayor Kim Baxter said Friday.

Workforce housing is different from affordable housing in that it provides homes for middle-income households that have been in the workforce and would be looking at moving out of affordable housing. However, with skyrocketing housing prices in the Durango area, there are few homes on the market for those middle-income families.

“We’re focusing on $50,000 to $150,000 a year household income, so that means the income of one or more people in a household,” Baxter said.

Discussing funding for future workforce housing projects, councilors agreed to give staff members use of the city’s $4.7 million American Rescue Plan Act. Additionally, councilors gave staff members the leeway to use the city’s in-lieu fee balances, which Baxter said is about $1.1 million.

“The million dollars of in-lieu fees comes from the transfer fees that Twin Buttes and Three Springs real estate transactions have accumulated,” Baxter said. “So basically, that’s $5.8 million that we said to staff, ‘When you bring us your budget, bring us some housing ideas that we can use this money for.’”

Another potential funding source, which won’t be available until after a full budget discussion, is sales tax overage.

“We are collecting more sales tax than we had budgeted for year to date,” Baxter said. “So there will be some extra reserve funds in the general fund that could possibly be used for housing, but we want to see what other needs the city organization has before we make that decision.”

To best inform the council about community needs, a number of housing reports are being conducted.

“We will be getting some information through the new report that’s coming out through Housing Solutions and Southwest Colorado Council of Governments contracted for,” Baxter said. “That will actually give us a good idea of, say, a teacher’s or policeman’s normal salary, and if they’re living together what that might equal.”

Baxter said the information from the report should come back to the city this month, and will help direct next steps so the city doesn’t overlook the various kinds of middle-income workers.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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