If a person were cynical, they might be tempted to offer the following observation:
“Workforce housing is like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it.”
In fact, however, the community of Pagosa Springs seems to be on the verge of doing quite a bit about our workforce housing crisis here.
On April 5, for example, the town voters approved a new ‘Workforce Housing Fee’ to be charged against Short-Term Rental (STR) properties within the town limits. That new fee is estimated to raise perhaps $500,000 per year to support workforce housing projects.
Meanwhile, the Rose Mountain low-income housing project on Hot Springs Boulevard is slowing coming out of the ground — slightly behind schedule — and when completed, will provide 34 apartment units to be distributed among a waiting list of about 114 hopeful applicants.
The Pagosa Inn & Suites motel is reportedly in the process of conversion into about 98 long-term rentals, with perhaps 25 of the units earmarked for workforce income levels.
The Archuleta Board of County Commissioners recently approved the donation of 11 vacant County-owned parcels to our local Habitat for Humanity organization, to help meet a goal of 15 new single family homes to be erected over the next 5 years.
Other housing projects are in the ‘visioning’ stages.
Not that these projects would necessarily meet the existing demand. The 2021 regional housing study performed by Root Policy Research suggested that Archuleta County has need for about 800 more homes to address our workforce housing shortage.
Tonight, Tuesday April 12, the Pagosa Springs Planning Commission will be reviewing several proposed housing projects. Three of the prospective projects are collaborations between the Town government — which is donating vacant parcels on Apache Street — and Texas-based Servitas, which claims to be an “innovative P3 developer of student housing and workforce housing.”
“P3” being shorthand for “public-private partnership”.
From the Servitas website:
Servitas is a professional, trusted, and nationwide workforce housing and student housing development firm capable of providing the full suite of services to our higher education and municipal partners. We take pride in the quality of our projects, how they contribute to the broader community, and how they support the social and professional development of our residents. As a tested and trusted workforce and student housing developer and property manager, Servitas has extensive experience in P3 financial structuring for private education, public higher education, and municipal developments.
Of the 12 projects listed in Servitas’ website portfolio, 11 were built for colleges or universities. Only one project appears to be purely “municipal” — namely, Pagosa Springs.
Perhaps Pagosa Springs will be the guinea pig for Servitas’ ambitious move towards municipal “P3” collaborations? We’ve certainly been the guinea pig for other projects. (Why does the failing Town sewer pipeline instantly come to mind?)
Two of the three proposed Servitas projects will be presented tonight as ‘ready’ for a ‘sketch plan design review’, including:
B. Major Design Review Sketch – 574 S. 5th Street – 12 multi-family workforce housing units.
This project a public/private partnership project and is one of three housing developments proposed by the Town and their private sector partner, Servitas, to help address our community’s growing need for housing units serving individuals and families with incomes between 60%-150% of area median income (AMI). These rental units will be owned by the Town of Pagosa Springs and operated by Servitas for 40 years and from then on continue under the Town’s ownership, providing long term affordability.
This townhome housing development is proposed for 2 two-story buildings, each with six two-bedroom units including two car garages in each building, for a total of 12 units…
Here’s how the mostly-vacant parcel at S. 5th Street and Apache looks at the moment…
…and here’s how it might look in the near future…
It appears the twelve two-story units will measure about 1,050 square feet each.
The other Servitas proposal, that seems ready for some type of Planning Commission approval, is slated for a one-acre parcel at the corner of Hot Springs Boulevard and Apache — a single three-story apartment building with 24 units measuring either 584 or 870 square feet.
D. Major Design Review Sketch – 558 Hot Springs Blvd./575 S. 3rd St. – 24 multifamily units
This proposal is to construct a 3-story multifamily building containing a mix of 1- and 2-bed units, totaling 24 rental apartments. Parking requirements will be met with onsite spaces, plus shared parking within the existing Town Hall Parking lot. Two properties are currently zoned Mixed Use Residential (MU-R) and the one lot along Apache Street is zoned Public/Quasi Public (PS) which requires rezoning to MU-R. The rental units will be owned by the Town of Pagosa Springs and operated by Servitas for 40 years. The intent is to provide housing choices for individuals and families in the 60%-120% AMI levels for a minimum of 40 years….
The vacant parcel currently looks like this, with the Town Hall parking lot on the left, Hot Springs Boulevard at the top, and Apache Street on the right…
The artist renderings look like this…
A third Servitas project has been in discussion, to be located on a corner of South Pagosa Park — the neighborhood park at the corner of S. 8th Street and Apache, adjacent to Seeds of Learning early education center.
Following a couple of ‘neighborhood meetings’, the Town government realized that some of the neighbors had negative feelings towards a workforce housing project that might occupy a sizable chunk of their neighborhood park.
The park currently looks like this:
You can see a large playing field in the bottom right; Seeds of Learning at the top; a couple of volleyball courts and some playground equipment at the bottom left, and above the volleyball courts, the corner used for pickleball during the summer and an ice rink during the winter
One might assume that, if a municipal government were thinking about siting a housing project within the boundaries of an existing recreational park, that same municipal government would be careful to hold neighborhood meetings long before entering into negotiations with a potential developer.
Unfortunately, the Town spent six months talking to the developer, prior to talking with the neighboring taxpayers.
This might have been a poor choice.
As mentioned, the Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for 5pm tonight, Tuesday, April 12. You can attend in-person at Town Hall, or, conditionally, via Zoom:
Join Zoom Meeting By Computer – https://zoom.us/j/91425469027
Dial by Phone – 1-669-900-6833 US – Meeting ID: 914 2546 9027
The Town does not and cannot guarantee internet service or online broadcasting. Remote attendance is at the risk of the attendee as public meetings will continue in person regardless of the Town’s broadcast capability.
Read Part Two, tomorrow…
Bill Hudson began sharing his opinions in the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 and can’t seem to break the habit. He claims that, in Pagosa Springs, opinions are like pickup trucks: everybody has one.