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Summit County Acquires Unit at Bear Hollow

After some discussion on Wednesday, the Summit County Council decided to take an opportunity to acquire a unit in Bear Hollow. Council Member Roger Armstrong says maybe they can tighten up the one-time deed restrictions on the unit, to make it affordable housing again.

The council is looking at a unit at 5573 North Oslo Lane. 

Armstrong said that nearly 20 years ago, they set up dozens of residences at Bear Hollow to be affordable housing. But they haven't stayed that way.

“This was one of the earliest experiments in affordable housing and how to deal with it. I think generally there's about 60 deed restricted units out there. Some of those have escalated in price. There is a three-percent allowance for appreciation. Beyond that I think the restrictions that don't require the owners to live in them that allow them to be rented, even on a nightly rental basis. Perhaps a failure to enforce the deed restrictions have led to some abuses over time.  I think some of those units aren't working the way they once were. There are opportunities from time to time to buy some of these units when they come up for sale. I think that's what's happened here. It's a unit for about $289,000 if I remember correctly”

The council talked about what their options are for the unit.

"Should the county buy it? Should we buy it in partnership with Mountainlands Community Housing Trust? Take it off the market, maybe strengthen some of those deed restrictions and then put it back on the market and then sell it back so that we put it back in the pool with better controls on it. As you've seen us do with other affordable housing. Restrictions on who can live there, who can live in the unit. Are they local? Are they working in the community? Do they meet certain income levels to be satisfied to be eligble?"

He noted that the price of the housing can be exacerbated by HOA dues, which in Bear Hollow can be as much as $500 a month.

"That's pretty pricey for people. That's almost what people are paying for affordable housing. That's half of a 60% or 70% affordable unit at $500. That takes it completly out of affordability. I think we have to watch those. I think that as we look at which of those units may be suitable for us to buy and what we might do with them. Part of the discussion was, do we buy a unit at that price and hold it for county employees. Make that available as an option if we're trying to recruit somebody. We're in competition because a lot of our employees can't live in the county either."

Armstrong said they might take similar action with eight or nine other Bear Hollow units, should they come on the market. He said one suggestion for financing came from the Economic Development Director, Jeff Jones, and Mountainlands Housing head Scott Loomis.

"Maybe instead of using the $450,000 that we currently have in our fee-in-lieu bank, that's been paid in to buy one or two units, do we use a lesser amount partner with Mountain Lands Housing Trust and take some of these units as they come up. Pay down the mortage just to make them affordable again and roll them back in. The devil's in the details on those kind of structures. We'd have to see what that looks like. Who has control of the property? What the ownership looks like, what the restrictions look like. There's a lot of details that would go into that, but that's a possibility too. So rather than buying two units could we then buy multiple units for the same amount of money. We'd have to look at whether we can recoup some of that money are there ways for us to replenish the fee-in-lieu fund." 

Although the safegaurds for affordable housing have eroded with these units, Armstrong hesitated to say it's the fault of some particular party.

"I think when you start these programs you go in with good intentions you put in certain rules and regulations and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't and you make adjustments. That's how we've gotten to where we are on our current deed restrictions."

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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