Affordable Housing

Affordable housing in Saguache County is a complex topic. The Towns of Saguache and Center have some low income public housing, but spaces are limited. The Lazy KV, intended as an affordable living community, is seeing costs inch up. The Town of Moffat is exploring affordable housing for their community of growers, and hopefully there will be shared lessons to learn there. Outside the few developments, affordable housing is limited to small mobile home spaces with questionable sewage and water services. In the unincorporated portion of the county, “affordable housing” amounts to vehicular living.

Affordable housing is frequently cited as a barrier to recruitment of teachers, LEOs, medical professionals, EMS, and other essential members of a community.

There are things that can be done at the county level, but as of yet there has not been much energy or engagement.

I propose, as a start, we turn to the county owned property list and do a deep dive. As of July 2018, the County of Saguache owns an abundance of residential property units. These range from 150ft x 100ft slips for campers and mobiles, to residential properties in the Baca. Some properties are in a blight stage, others are completely undeveloped, while others are saleable with structures as-is. These properties are earmarked for residential use. Each month the county accepts bids, and each month bids are turned down as too low.

There are a multitude of ways we could leverage these properties that don’t involve devaluing them –

– Include real property in compensation packages for underpayed public servants who serve a pre-determined number of years (deputies, EMS, teachers, etc)
– identify suitable properties for short term housing of new public servants
– identify clustered properties that may be suitable for communities within communities (seniors, vets, etc)
– identify larger properties with zoning that could support tiny home communities
– identify walk-bike distance properties that could be used as shared community spaces
– identify properties that could serve as shared resources for gig-economy workers to ‘go legal’ and expand their markets (shared commercial kitchen space etc)
– identify properties that could be valuable as bartering currency for builders/developers
– identify properties that would be suitable for rent-to-own arrangements
– identify blighted properties that would be suitable for a clean up & rehab sale (resident returns the property to good condition in exchange for deed)
– identify walk-bike distance properties that could be used as playground/athletic space for communities

The bottom line is that these properties are currently sitting idle. There aren’t providing shelter to residents, generating income for residents, or enhancing the community in any way. Abandoned property when unattended can lose value if structures aren’t maintained. The longer we sit on these properties, the more deterioration occurs.

If you are interested in bidding on county owned properties, the full list is here. This is NOT the same as the annual tax lien sale. These properties are owned free and clear by the county.

Learn about the bid process here –

We also need to have some common understanding of what “affordable housing” is. In my chats with residents it all comes down to monthly payments, and we have a massive gap in expectations. I’ve heard ‘affordable housing’ described as $100 per person per month (so $400/month for a family of 4) to $400 per person per month ($1600/month for a family of four). The lowest rates were described in Center, and the highest in Crestone.

Look for a survey soon…

Comments are on, I’d love to hear what you think!