17 Oct September Report – From the TAR Government Affairs Department
September Article| 2019
Telluride Annual Budget Could Include Tax/Rate Increases
Telluride Town Council began its annual budget discussions late in September with a first look at several funds that comprise the overall budget. The proposed 65 percent rate hike depicted in the Water and Wastewater Enterprise funds dominated council’s morning discussion as council member Jessie Rae Arguelles made a strong case to protect in-town water users from the steep increase.
The Water and Wastewater Enterprise Fund reflected an increase in monthly water rates from $77 to $127 for residential in-town users. The increase, Herzog explained, was based on a recent rate study conducted for the town’s Public Works Department and was what town officials based last year’s 70 percent rate increase for wastewater services on. The study takes into account several infrastructure projects on the horizon, some of which have been put off for a number of years. Arguelles said she didn’t want to see consumers forced to absorb another steep increase in the wake of last year’s rate hike.
The ensuing discussion focused on how to lessen the rate of increase with alternative sources. Council eyed the reserve fund, which is currently at 30 percent, a healthy amount, given numerous forecasts that point to an impending economic downturn.
Possible funding sources for the water-wastewater treatment fund included charging visitors — particularly the town’s high volume of vehicles during the Fourth of July holiday — but Geiger said that exacting a fee per vehicle is more common in a toll road scenario, in which the fee is directed toward maintenance of the road.
Another idea floated was increasing the town’s surcharge on festival tickets. The current surcharge is used to help pay for increased law enforcement needs and the impacts on Town Park’s fields and facilities. Mayor Sean Murphy wondered if water use in the park could be tied into a wristband fee, but Herzog said water use in the park specifically was “not huge.”
New Report Suggests Lack of Affordable Housing Has a Huge Impact on Local Economy
According to a recently released report compiled by the Trust for Community Housing, despite encouraging gains in the affordable housing pool, “About 59 percent of employers reported that the lack of affordable housing for their employees is a critical or serious problem for their business.”
The exhaustive report presented a few surprises to TCH Executive Director, Amy Levek. “There were several surprises. For instance, when you look at how many locally occupied units there are, the number region-wide has dropped from about 50 percent to 44 percent,” Levek said. “If local governments, the school district and Telluride Ski & Golf had not built deed-restricted housing, that number would be 34 percent. Our housing programs, no surprise, have maintained a critical part of our community.”
While those efforts are notable, the shortfall still creates impacts that took even Levek — who has been deeply immersed in housing issues for many years — by surprise.
“With 7 percent of jobs unfilled and frequent turnover, at least one-half of employers have needed employees to cover multiple positions or have had to work extra hours themselves,” the report reads. “About 40 percent have had frustrated employees and increased turnover and 30 percent have been unable to grow and/or have retained unskilled employees in positions due to lack of options.”
Employee turnover is also linked to commuting. Many workers, unable to find and/or afford housing closer to where they work, have resorted to finding housing in outlying communities such as Rico, Norwood and as far away as Montrose or Cortez. The report revealed that about 11 percent of commuting employees (200 total) found jobs closer to home last year.
The area’s numerous nonprofits are also feeling the crunch. Like their for-profit counterparts, they face difficulty finding not only paid staff, but also the lifeblood of any nonprofit, volunteers.
“Volunteer participation in the Telluride area drops off significantly among households residing outside of the area,” the report states. “Residents of the Telluride area conduct 60 percent of their religious, charitable, civic or volunteer activities locally. Only 14 percent of such activities are conducted in the Telluride area by residents in the rest of San Miguel County and less than 3 percent by residents in neighboring Ouray and Montrose counties.”
Solutions to aid businesses with housing that TCH officials are working on include the Housing Opportunity Fund, which is a grant program to help people get into housing, both for ownership and rental opportunities. According to Levek, TCH has granted funds to six crucial employees in the area.
A new program to meet the needs of the recent Telluride housing lottery winners is called Keep The Lights One as well as a collaboration with Tellruide Venture Accelerators, Levek said. The website to find out more on the program or to send clients: https://www.trustforcommunityhousing.org/
The employer survey, she said, showed that many businesses are keen to help explore solutions.
How FHA Condo Rules Affect REALTORS® and Consumers
FHA and the GSEs have different rules for the sale of a condominium versus a stand-alone single-family home. The reason for these rules goes back to a long-held belief that condominiums are more risky than single family structures. These rules have hampered the ability of homebuyers to purchase a condo, and make it much more difficult to sell condominiums. The rules include limits on the number of units that can be rented; limits on the number of units that can be delinquent in dues – regardless of the financial standing of the property; unreasonable burdens on properties to be approved; and limits on commercial space.
Condominiums are often the most affordable homeownership option for first time buyers, small families, single people, and older Americans. On August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the long-awaited final rule on project approval for single-family condominiums insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). For many years, NAR urged HUD to finalize changes to the previous rule that would ease restrictions on FHA financing for condominiums, thus enabling more first-time buyers, older adults, and low to moderate-income families to achieve the dream of homeownership. NAR continues to work with FHA and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to insure that people who wish to purchase a condominium have safe affordable access to mortgage credit.
For additional information about the final rule, visit NAR’s FHA Condo Rule Assessment.
Fed Weighing in on Local & State Short Term Rental Laws
There has been a lot of press coverage of a new bill introduced in Congress that deals with short-term rentals. The bill, H.R.4232 , the “Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods Act”, introduced by Rep. Case (D-HI), requires providers of short term rental listings (Air BNB, VRBO, etc) to ensure that the properties they list are rented in compliance with state and local law. The legislation has just been introduced, and faces a long process before it becomes law.
While a number of state and local REALTOR® associations have addressed this issue in their communities, NAR has no policy on short-term rentals, as we have members on both sides (those who argue private property rights and the ability to rent your own home as you see fit; and those who argue that these rentals disturb the residential flavor of neighborhoods and hurt quiet enjoyment). However, we do have a useful white-papers and resources that outline the options and issues surrounding short-term rental restrictions. Those resources can be accessed at https://realtorparty.realtor/state-local-issues/issues/short-term-rentals.html
This monthly government affairs/public policy report is prepared for information purposes for the members of the Telluride Association of REALTORS® (TAR). It is a snap shot of issues important to the real estate industry at the local, state, and national levels. Any position taken on local issues is done at the direction of the TAR Board of Directors and is done with considerable debate and discussion by TAR leadership. Positions taken by CAR or NAR on issues at the state and national level will be reflected in the article when applicable.