Trust for Community Housing: Research on Affordable Housing Released!

Trust for Community Housing: Research on Affordable Housing Released!

The Trust for Community Housing, (TCH), the Telluride region’s non-profit organization dedicated to helping increase the availability of affordable housing, released its recent research exploring the value of having affordable housing in the community.

For more information about TCH, to donate or to get involved in any way visit here and/or contact Amy Levek at

Moe & Karen Bellerose, photo, courtesy Amy Levek.

Trust for Community Housing, Why It Matters. (Hint: It’s Personal):

Meet the Bellerose family.

As reliable, loyal public servants, Karen and Moe can now continue to recirculate their wages for products and services here in Telluride, helping to sustain the local economy year ‘round. Stats indicate the couple is more likely to stay in their jobs longer and have an active presence in the community through volunteerism, helping keep the lights on and local initiatives up and running. Not only that, as residents with easy access to their jobs, they help reduce the need for more public infrastructure like parking and regional transit.

All that good news comes down to the fact Karen and Moe Bellarose were recently able to purchase a home in Lawson Hill – with a little help from their friends at the Trust for Community Housing (TCH).

Here is their story.

It might sound familiar.

Regardless it is a feel-good case in point about the importance of Telluride newest 501(c)(3), TCH, whose goal is to work both on its own and in collaboration with other public- and private-sector groups to increase the supply of affordable housing in the region.

No, not sexy, but absolutely critical to the survival of the Telluride region as a service economy.

Karen and Moe Bellerose had grown accustomed to their long commute from the nearby community of Norwood to Telluride, where Karen works in the sheriff’s office; Moe is a water treatment specialist; and their children, ages 13 and 15, attend school. They bought a house in Norwood nearly 20 years ago because it was far more affordable than digs available in town.

“It’s hard living in one place and having your life in another,” explains Karen. “There’s a lot to be said for having everything in one place. That allows you to contribute more to the community. Many of the homes in Telluride are just too expensive for locals, and there never seems to be enough affordable, deed-restricted properties available to rent or buy. A lot of people end up moving to nearby towns and commuting or leaving altogether.”

Last fall, the picture for the Belleroses changed: the Town of Telluride offered Moe a job overseeing its two water treatment facilities and waste water station. One hitch: the position required him to be on call 24/7 to deal with emergencies for one week a month. During that week, Moe needed to be within 15 minutes of Telluride.

It made sense to move the family to Telluride, not only to be closer to work, but also so the kids could more fully participate in school and social activities. An online search resulted in some promising news: a house close to town was for sale thanks to a local government program that keeps a number of properties more affordable, giving qualified local employees the ability to buy or rent homes and therefore become more active members of the community.

And then there was more good news: Karen and Moe qualified for a grant from TCH created to help defray expenses as down payments or closing and moving costs.

The couple was elated:

“I didn’t think it was possible for someone at my income level to own in Telluride,” says Moe, who worked as a carpenter for 20 years. “I thought I was priced out.”

“The Housing Trust is such a great idea, but great ideas don’t get far without community support,” says Karen. “More than 60 donors to the Housing Trust made purchasing our new home possible. For that, we are tremendously grateful.”

“This was real-time assistance when we needed it most,” adds Moe.

Since moving into their new digs, the family’s quality of life has improved in many ways. The kids are able to participate more fully in school activities as anticipated. Karen and Moe have gone cross-country skiing and mountain-biking after work – things they were not able to do in Norwood because it was dark by the time they got home. And Belleroses regularly goes to the movies together.

“The fabric of Telluride has always been the result of a mix of people from all walks of life,” says Karen. “The town recognizes that a mix is good for the community. That’s where the Trust comes in. It helps people who want to live and work here move into housing that might otherwise be out of reach.”

TCH, Economic Research on Affordable Housing – The Bottom Line Hits Your Bottom Line If You Have Assets or Are Looking for a Home in the Telluride Region:

“What this research shows is how much it costs the local economy when we don’t have adequate housing for our employees. Last year, local businesses spent at least $4.3 million to fill vacant jobs. And that figure is conservative compared to national studies. My hope is that our research adds to an understanding as to why having adequate affordable housing is so important to all who are part of the Telluride area community. It also reminds us that it is essential we find ways to build more housing if our community is to thrive. TCH welcomes further discussions with everyone, especially those not always involved in local housing policy. The employer survey shows that many employers have a great interest in engaging in any affordable housing discussions,” says Amy Levek, executive director, TCH.

Again, the Trust for Community Housing is the Telluride region’s only non-profit organization dedicated to helping increase the availability of affordable housing.

TCH recently released exhaustive research exploring the value of having affordable housing within the community. The report, “The Impacts of Affordable Housing on the Telluride Area Economy and Community,” was done by WSW Consulting, Inc. The research includes an employer survey done in conjunction with the Telluride Tourism Board that was distributed to business license holders in both the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village.

The research examines why it is important for people to live close to their place of work, both from a community and economic perspective.

Specifically, the report presents:

• A brief overview of the jobs, housing economy and deed-restricted inventory in the Telluride area;
• The effect of the deed-restricted inventory on housing occupancy rates, and demographics;
• The general benefits that having housing affordable for residents and employees has for businesses and the local economy, employee satisfaction and for addressing in-commuting; and
• Other community benefits of having more residents in town related to volunteerism and social engagement.

The research understates the compelling need for more ambitious plans to address the affordable housing problem that will continue to have a serious impact on our economy and community.

Some of the findings show that having deed-restricted affordable housing has:

• Effectively kept the occupied housing rate in the Telluride area from falling further. The rate dropped from just over 50% to 44% between 2010 and 2016. Without deed-restricted housing that rate would have fallen to 34%. Construction of deed-restricted housing units has enabled local employees to stay within the community.
• Helped “essential workers” find rentals or purchase homes in town, including employees in healthcare, emergency services, government, and the essential service industries (bar/restaurant, lodging/accommodations and recreation/entertainment).
• Decreased in-commuting by about 259,000 vehicle miles each week, limiting congestion and pollution, and saving employees an average of $322 per month in commuting costs by allowing them to live in the area.
• Increased local area shopping expenditures by about $11.5 million per year by increasing the number of year-round occupants in the area. (Figure does not include banking, financial, construction, and other similar spending.)

These benefits significantly help employers and boost employee morale. However, more housing is critically needed. Employers still struggle with employee recruitment and retention, filling jobs, and finding needed volunteers. Housing and transportation tops their list in their recruitment challenges.

• About 59% of employers reported that the lack of affordable housing for their employees is a CRITICAL or SERIOUS problem for their business.
• With 7% 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.
• Employers report spending an average of $5,200 per employee to fill vacant jobs and train new employees, which is conservative compared to national studies. The fact that 17% of area employees left their jobs due to housing problems last year cost employers a combined $4.3 million to replace them.
• Contributing to this turnover are in-commuting employees who grew tired of their commute. About 11% of in-commuting employees found jobs closer to their home last year.

TCH is excited to share this report with the community and hopes that it adds to an understanding as to why having adequate affordable housing is so important to the Telluride region. It also underscores the fact that it is essential to find ways to build more housing if the local community is to thrive.

The research and analysis was made possible by grants and contributions from The Telluride Foundation and The Telluride Tourism Board.

TCH, more:

TCH was founded by two of the region’s thought-leaders: long-time local Amy Levek, a former town planner, former mayor of Telluride, former San Miguel County Commissioner, and co-founder of TCH with board chair Katherine Borsecnik.

“We’re very excited to have launched this organization,” Levek said. “We aspire to be a community-based group that helps define constructive solutions to our shared goal of keeping our community intact. Bringing a non-profit into the puzzle adds additional energy and tools.”

That the larger Telluride community urgently needs affordable housing is supported by the recently completed San Miguel County Housing Needs Assessment, which concluded, among other findings, that:

• The community-wide perception of the housing issue as a critical problem has risen to a new high as 39 percent of survey respondents who ranked affordable housing for regional workers as the most serious issue compared to 15 percent of those surveyed in 2011.
• The current housing need in the county is defined by the existing deficit (“catch-up”) of 441 units and the projected need over the next 10 years (“keep-up”) of 325 units.
• Employers too are concerned about the lack of available housing, with 57 percent saying rental housing for year-round employees is their biggest concern. There are currently about 150 unfilled jobs in the county.

While the assessment highlights the issue in terms of trends and data, TCH founding members believe the lack of affordable housing is also threatening the very heart and soul of the Telluride community.

Levek explained that one of the reasons she was attracted to Telluride so many years ago and has stayed is the creativity and strength of the community: “As a planner and former elected official, I understand how our culturally engaged community distinguishes us from other towns.”

Borsecnik agrees: “Telluride has always been as much about the unique mix of people who chose to live and work here as it is about the beauty.”

Prospective renters and buyers in the Telluride community face challenges not only in securing housing appropriate for their needs, but also in affording that housing. To that end, the organization has established two initial programs to help individuals faced with these challenges.

TCH’s Housing Opportunity Fund will provide financial support in the form of grants and loans to qualified individuals to help defray the costs of obtaining housing and moving.

Additionally, TCH will pursue land-banking, a critical step in increasing inventory that involves purchasing land and working with landowners to secure property through donations and other means.

Other tools like bargain sales that earn the seller a charitable tax benefit might also wind up in the mix.

In these and other initiatives, TCH will function in ways similar to open-space conservation organizations, which have been highly effective regionally in the preservation of land for open space.

“Housing trusts have been established in diverse communities throughout the United States as access to affordable housing has become more difficult nationwide,” Borsecnik said. “Because of its nonprofit status, a housing trust can provide alternative approaches to increasing housing, either independently or in collaboration with municipalities and other organizations.”

Levek indicated that housing trusts have the advantage of being able to work more nimbly than governments and more flexibly with private sector partners.

“In the same way the Valley Floor project united the community to preserve something precious, we hope to emphasize through this work how essential access to housing is to our diverse community,” noted Borsecnik.

Local government officials and staff are voicing their support for the new group.

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