Trust for Community Housing Works to Increase Affordable Housing in Telluride Region
A lack of affordable housing in the Telluride region is a serious issue that has impacted – and continues to impact – the larger community in a range of ways.
Now, Telluride’s newest nonprofit, the Trust for Community Housing, a charitable 501(c)(3) organization, will 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.
Long-time local Amy Levek, a former town planner, former mayor of Telluride and former San Miguel County Commissioner, co-founded TCH with Acting Board Chair Katherine Borsecnik.
“We’re very excited to launch 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."
She added, “Bringing a non-profit into the puzzle adds additional energy and tools.”
That the larger community urgently needs affordable housing is supported by the recently completed San Miguel County Housing Needs Assessment, which concluded, among other things, 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 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 said one of the reasons she was attracted to Telluride so many years ago and has stayed is because of the creativity and strength of the community. “As a planner and former elected official, I understand how our community distinguishes us from other towns.” Borsecnik agreed, “Telluride has always been as much about the unique mix of people who 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. It could also include other tools like bargain sales that earn the seller a charitable tax benefit. In this way, TCH can work in a similar manner 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.
“Like 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.
“A nonprofit organization that is able to bring more resources to solve our affordable housing shortfall is essential,” San Miguel County Commissioner Kris Holstrom said. We embrace a collaborative approach to problem-solving in our region, because our housing needs are pervasive and complex, yet there is only so much that government can do on its own.”
Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez also expressed support.
“The Town of Mountain Village is acutely aware of the need to increase affordable housing,” Benitez said. “While we have an active program that has constructed 534 units of housing for our workforce, we are very excited to have the newly formed Trust for Community Housing join forces with us to get more built or acquired. Their presence will help us meet the region’s needs.”
Lance McDonald, Program Manager for the Town of Telluride, oversees planning and construction of the town’s affordable housing and stated: “We’re looking forward to having another partner in meeting this region’s housing needs. We’ve had success with open space that includes working with a private nonprofit organization to achieve our goals. The model works and we look forward to future partnerships with TCH.”
Levek remarked that TCH also intends to engage the community. “We are currently looking for financial support on all levels to support our programs. Your donation of a few dollars a month to the Housing Opportunity Fund will enable us to help your co-worker secure housing. Larger donations will support both this fund and empower our land banking program.”
To this end, TCH is excited to announce that it has received an anonymous donation of $100,000 that will match other donations. Funds will support the organization and its programs. In addition, TCH is grateful to five local families who pitched in seed money to start up the organization. “And while we do not anticipate solving the region’s affordable housing conundrum, this financial support is bringing a different set of tools and community members to the table,” noted Levek.