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Two La Plata County groups partner to develop housing solutions

Regional Housing Alliance and La Plata Economic Alliance set sights on three-year housing strategy
The catalyst fund geared toward financing upfront costs for workforce development already has $350,000 from state grants. (Durango Herald file)

The Regional Housing Alliance of La Plata County has signed a professional service contract with the La Plata Economic Development Alliance to help with workforce housing solutions.

The move was made because the RHA wanted to make an impact on workforce housing as soon as possible. The group had been looking for a consultant to work on affordable housing solutions. After seeing how La Plata Economic Alliance was working with Project Moxie to develop workforce housing solutions, RHA wanted to help create a catalyst fund that is one of the priorities in La Plata Economic Development Alliance’s Three Year Housing Strategy.

La Plata Economic Development Alliance will offer administrative support to the RHA board, which had been looking for an executive director.

Catalyst funding will be provided through state grants mostly from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The agreement will run through December 2023, however, it has the possibility to go on throughout La Plata Economic Development Alliance’s Three Year Housing Strategy.

The three year strategy recommends that local governments be intentional about creating below-market housing wherever possible. The strategy defines below-market housing as all housing that is created and delivered to the consumer below the existing market prices.

“The RHA realized that the money that we were going to put toward our own administration could be better served by helping the Economic Alliance support their administration, so that all the money that they received from funding, financiers and grants could go directly to projects,” said RHA Board Chair Kim Baxter.

The purpose of the agreement is to create a network of funding for organizations that are looking to develop affordable housing.

“It's very hard to get a specific project together without knowing what magnitude of funding you have for it, and this is part of what the catalyst fund does is help fund those upfront costs for developers,” Baxter said.

Because of a shortage of labor and materials, those upfront costs could be even higher for developers. It will also help fund the upfront work needed before developers start building. This includes looking at the cost of infrastructure and evaluating what requirements the development must follow based on the municipality that oversees the land.

“In essence, we need to be able to go find the sustainable funding source to address workforce housing in this community,” said La Plata Economic Alliance Executive Director Mike French. “And we're competing with other communities that have the exact same issue that we do.”

French said the influx of retirees, remote workers and second homeowners has depleted the housing inventory in La Plata County, and with the catalyst fund started, the La Plata Economic Alliance hopes it will stimulate workforce housing development.

The fund currently has about $350,000 from various state grants.

Baxter said the goal is to aim for higher housing density or to build housing developments on infill land. Infill land already has access to sewage and water. That would eliminate some of the upfront costs for development.

French said the entities will look for ways to obtain grant money, identify project possibilities and increase the scale of housing inventory.

“We have hired resources dedicated to this contract and will partner with outside entities to ensure we can leverage our Catalyst Fund to attract grant moneys and advance projects,” said Joe Theine, La Plata Economic Alliance Board chairman in a news release. “We believe this aligns well with the RHA mission, which is to facilitate, initiate, and support the development of appropriate, affordable housing for the critical workforce essential to the long-term economic sustainability and resiliency of La Plata County and its communities.”


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