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  • Dylan Anderson

How does the Brown Ranch Annexation Agreement ensure housing will be affordable for locals?

The annexation agreement includes a section specifically focused on ensuring units will be affordable and attainable now and into the future.

Social media posts are often quick to declare that the Brown Ranch will not be affordable housing, but largely ignore details in the annexation that are in place to ensure units will be kept affordable and attainable.


In fact, the annexation agreement city council approved last month includes a whole section about how housing built at Brown Ranch — whether rental or for sale units — will be kept affordable now and in to the future. An additional 13-page exhibit to the annexation agreement further lays out affordability.


Providing affordable and attainable housing is the number one goal of the project. Affordable means residents living at Brown Ranch would be spending no more than 30% of their income on monthly rent or mortgage payments. Attainable means there is a supply of housing available for residents across various income levels.


“(Housing affordability) is the reason the housing authority is in business, it’s 100% of our mission,” said Yampa Valley Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley at an annexation meeting about affordability. “If we’re not delivering on affordability, we’re not going to be building anything, because if we can’t meet that top priority, we stop right there.”


Who can live at the Brown Ranch?

While sometimes talked about as low-income housing, the plan for Brown Ranch includes a broad swath of income levels from 30% to 250% of the local area median income. (That is a range of individual workers earning wages from $22,800 to nearly $190,000 annually.)


The idea is that Brown Ranch can meet the need for housing felt throughout the local economy, whether the worker is looking to pick up shifts in a restaurant or if they are a physician at the hospital.


The local Area Median Income is $75,900, which means of people who pay their income taxes in Routt County, 50% of people make more than that and 50% of people make less. (Median means middle, not average. The average income locally is lower than the median income.)


A 30% AMI worker equates to a single person making about $22,800 per year, which could be someone starting out as a seasonal lifty in town. To limit their housing costs to 30% of their income, this worker could pay about $570 per month for housing.


A 100% AMI worker equates to a single person making less than $75,900 and is a role such as a firefighter locally. At that level, 30% of income equates to about $1,800 a month in housing costs for a single person.


A 250% AMI worker equates to a single person making less than $189,750, an income level that is inclusive of incomes advertised on job postings for specialized positions at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. Limiting housing costs to 30% of their income would have them paying about $4,700 per month for housing for a single person.


Can remote workers live at Brown Ranch?


The annexation agreement also contains local work requirements, meaning remote workers are not eligible to live at the Brown Ranch unless their employer is physically located in Routt County and doing business that serves Routt County. From the Community Affordability Agreement: “For individuals claiming self-employment or work-from-home status, the employment must be for an average of at least 30 hours per week on an annual basis for a business that is located within and serves Routt County, and requires their physical presence within the boundaries of Routt County in order to complete the task or furnish the service, and such individuals must demonstrate they are earning at least minimum wage from this employment.”


What if you are retired or are planning to retire?


Retirees are eligible to live at the Brown Ranch provided they are retired from a business physically located within the county for at least five consecutive years. They also need to have worked an average of at least 30 hours per week annually at that business.


Those who are semi-retired are able to live at Brown Ranch as well. They need to have worked 30 hours per week annually at a business located in Routt County for seven consecutive years prior to partially retiring and work at least 15 hours per week annually at a Routt County business as their partial employment.


How will rental units be kept affordable?


All rental units at the Brown Ranch will be built with the intention of meeting a particular income level, with rents set accordingly to that level, assuming that 30% of one’s income is going toward their housing.


For many of the rental units that will be built with federal or state housing dollars, there are already strict affordability requirements that need to be met. When YVHA closes deals with developers to build specific units, there will be metrics that outline the incomes that units are targeting and how rents will be determined.


This kind of deal — called a development agreement — would be needed before the city would approve a development plan or final plat for that specific project, giving the city the option to weigh in on affordability through the planning process.


How will for-sale homes be kept affordable?


According to the annexation agreement, more than 960 of the homes built at Brown Ranch will be sold as opposed to rented. That mix includes about 450 condos, 266 single-family attached homes (townhomes or row housing) and about 245 stand-alone single-family homes.


For-sale units equate to about 43% of all the units planned at Brown Ranch.


To keep homes affordable, buyers will need to agree to a deed restriction that limits what the home could be resold for in the future. The resale price of a Brown Ranch unit is restricted in one of two ways.


Under the first scenario, the home’s value would increase by 2% each year, prorated monthly. This means if a home is $400,000 to start, after one year it could be sold for $408,000.


Under the second scenario, the home’s value would increase by a factor that is half that of area median income increases. This means if AMI increased by an average of 10% annually over five years, the resale price would increase by 5% annually. In this example, that same $400,000 home to start could be resold for $500,000 after five years.

The value of a Brown Ranch home can also increase because of homeowner improvements made, though these are capped at 1% of the original purchase price per year of ownership. So if a homeowner puts $40,000 worth of improvements into their $400,000 home in five years, the resale price of the home could increase by $20,000 if sold at the end of year five.


Will there be any market-rate housing at Brown Ranch?


While critics of the project often say there should be some market-rate component of the Brown Ranch to help subsidize affordable units, they almost never acknowledge that market-rate housing is indeed part of the plan.


There are two areas of land at the Brown Ranch that the annexation agreement specifically exempts from the broader affordability requirements for the project, allowing YVHA to sell off the lots or to develop market-rate housing itself.


The first area is a roughly five-acre piece of land adjacent to the under-development Overlook Subdivision. There really is no access to this parcel from the Brown Ranch itself, as it sits high on a hill on the east side of the property. Access would likely need to be through the Overlook Subdivision.


The other area is a nearly 20-acre section in the southwest portion of the property. Units developed on this parcel — whether by YVHA or not — will be counted toward the 2,262 units planned at Brown Ranch, though they may be market rate, according to the annexation agreement.

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