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  • Dylan Anderson

‘The work begins now’: Steamboat makes historic commitment to affordable housing at Brown Ranch

Steamboat Springs Ballot Measure 2I to dedicate 75% of short-term rental tax revenues approved by margin of 487 votes, with just 150 votes outstanding.

More than two years after the property was anonymously donated to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, Steamboat Springs voters allocated dedicated funding to the Brown Ranch on Tuesday in another vote reaffirming the community’s desire for a solution to its decades-long housing crisis.


By a margin that grew to 487 votes through the night, Steamboat approved Ballot Measure 2I with votes falling 55% for ‘yes’ and 45% for ‘no.’ With 150 votes remaining, measure 2I was passing with 2,777 ‘yes’ votes and 2,290 ‘no’ votes.


The measure allocates 75% of Steamboat’s short-term rental tax revenue to Brown Ranch, a sum that has been estimated to be more than $10 million per year in dedicated local funding.


Jason Peasley, executive director of the housing authority, said the dedication of local funding was foundational to the project and would allow YVHA to deliver on the affordability they have promised.


“I’m incredibly grateful for the commitment that the community is making,” Peasley said. “This financial commitment to Brown Ranch is Foundational. The donation was transformational. The investment of our local resources is foundational. … This type of a commitment sends a really strong signal.”


“The love for this community has really come out,” Peasley continued. “There are so many people who have showed so much love for this community. … It’s what inspires us to keep pushing, keep moving, keep working through these hurdles.”


As it appeared measure 2I would pass on Tuesday night, Peasley reiterated YVHA’s goal to have the first Brown Ranch units come on line by the end of 2026. Work at the Brown Ranch will start next summer, he added.


The project is planned to have 2,262 units serving incomes ranging from 30% to 250% Routt County’s area median income, which stands at about $76,000 per year. That range hopes to appeal to workers throughout the Yampa Valley and address not only a desperate need for affordable housing, but a need for housing of all types.


“There has been a lot of work put into this by so many community members and I’m really proud of the results,” said Steamboat Springs Council member Dakotah McGinlay, who has often talked about community members she knows being forced out of Steamboat because of housing. “It at least gives me hope that our community could potentially support Brown Ranch. That in itself makes a statement to those people that this is a community they might want to stick around for.”


“(The vote on 2I) means that the community demonstrates that they understand the clear need for housing and that they have the collective will to make that happen,” said Andrew Beckler, owner of Steamboat-based ski pole maker Grass Sticks. “Most of the community does support affordable housing, they do support the Brown Ranch and they do support this way of funding it. … It goes to show that the community also believes that the Brown Ranch is the best way to make that housing happen.”


While there is an annexation agreement, and annexation has been approved by City Council and now the project has been allocated funding, there is still another hurdle for the Brown Ranch. A local group that opposed Ballot Measure 2I is circulating a petition to overturn Council’s decision on annexation and let Steamboat voters have the final say.


“We respect the community’s decision, if they want to put it to a vote, let’s have that vote,” Peasley said. “We’ll be right there will them, continuing this conversation that we have had for the last several months about the value of Brown Ranch and the benefits it can bring to the community.”


Peasley said if there is a vote, it could delay when they are able to start working at Brown Ranch, but there is work underway to mitigate any potential impacts.


“We’re investing right now in a lot of studies and things like that, that need to happen so we can really hit the ground running on design,” Peasley said. “We’re going to keep pressing forward under any circumstance. The need is there, so we are getting to work.”


No matter how the results landed on Tuesday, Peasley said he was overcome with appreciation for the community and the thousands of people who have participated in the outreach and planning for the Brown Ranch over the past two years.


“These types of community conversations, they are not always comfortable, they are not always civil. But we have to have them,” Peasley said. “I just appreciate the fact that people are passionate on either side and that we’re coming together and having the hard conversations that we need to have to solve these big community problems.”

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