Before the adoption of the new guidelines, you could not own developed residential property in the Telluride R-1 School District. The idea was that if you could afford free market property in the school district, then you did not need affordable housing.
Under the new guidelines, that concept has been thrown out. Here are a couple of things that you can do – completely legally – under the new guidelines:
* You could own a $700,000 house in Ophir, work in Mountain Village and you could qualify for a Telluride taxpayer-funded affordable housing unit in Telluride (no need to sell that weekend house in Ophir; no need to work in town).
* You could purchase one of the new houses the Town is proposing to build on the East End for, let’s say, $500,000 and you could own $1 million free and clear in real estate in Telluride, Mountain Village or anywhere else in the county (no need to sell that property – the taxpayers of Telluride want to give you a highly subsidized house to add to your real estate portfolio). Of course, if you have any loans on your free market properties, you can own more than $1 million in free market real estate.
* You could own an undeveloped lot in town and hold onto it while you save money to build your dream house, all while living in taxpayer-funded housing.
Sure, you have to get an “exception” to keep that free market property, but the standards for an exception are meaningless. Let me give you a few examples. You can qualify for an exception and keep your free market unit if giving you an exception:
* Would allow you to “own and occupy a Housing Unit more suitable to the Household’s needs.” In other words, if you need a bigger place, you qualify for an exception.
* “Creates living space for an additional member of the Household while maintaining the income targeting for the Housing Unit.” This means that if you have a baby, you qualify for an exception (because the baby doesn’t increase your income).
* “Promotes or recognizes long term commitment of the Applicant to residency, employment and community involvement.” This means that if you’ve been here a long time, you qualify for an exception and can keep your free market home.
* “Provides increased livability or durability in materials, finishes, fixtures, or appliances or useful increased square footage.” This means that if the affordable unit is in better shape, or bigger than, your free market unit, you qualify for an exception.
These exceptions are loopholes big enough to drive a Hummer through. But the bigger question is why would we create exceptions for people who own free market property when there are so many people who need affordable housing and have nothing.
Town Council also thinks that the asset limitation (which is actually assets net of any loans on the property or other liabilities you have) is meaningful. It’s not. Not only is the definition of an asset completely unenforceable (it includes things like intangible assets and patents), but as anyone who has thought about this quickly realizes, assets are pretty easy to hide.
How about your $250,000 stock portfolio? Doesn’t show up on your tax return. How about real estate you hold in town, Mountain Village, other states. or other counties? How will they determine its “fair market value”? An appraisal? Who pays for the appraisal? Who will determine the value of your business? Town staff?
The new guidelines don’t tighten the affordable housing qualifications, they gut them.
The author is a former councilmember, RHA boardmember and member of the design-build team that built the Wilkin Court affordable housing project. She also is a co-owner of Affordable Housing Solutions and is currently working with Ouray, Ridgway, Ouray County, Silverton, and San Juan County to provide affordable housing needs assessments.