Government representatives for Chaffee County, the city of Salida and towns of Poncha Springs and Buena Vista, including Salida City Councilwoman Cheryl Brown-Kovacic, are working on finding answers to the area’s housing problems.

“It’s not going to be fixed overnight,” Brown-Kovacic said, “but I’m excited we are all working together and coming up with so many solutions.”

Brown-Kovacic said the first step, which the group has already started, is putting together a market analysis to get data on the county’s needs.

“We are working with EPS consultants out of Denver,” Brown-Kovacic said. “They did the market analysis for the county around 2006, but that’s outdated now, and we need to update it if we want to apply for state housing programs.”

Brown-Kovacic said the project is being funded by a grant from the Department of Local Affairs and split among the participating governments.

“We hope to be able to coordinate efforts and work together to solve issues in both the county and the municipalities,” Brown-Kovacic said.

One of the problems Salida is dealing with is the number of short-term rental properties and homes that are not primary residences.

“We have approximately 100 people now paying lodging tax for short-term vacation rentals,” Brown-Kovacic said. “And we worked with the county to identify second homes, which came in at about 600.

“We don’t know how they are being used, if they are only used once in a while by the residents, as short-term rentals or some mix. I’m rather surprised at how large that number is. It’s about 25 percent of the houses in Salida.”

Brown-Kovacic said the group is negotiating with developers who might be interested in a 20-year tax incentive program for a rental housing program.

“We are still in discussion about it,” Brown-Kovacic said, “but we would like to develop something like this out at Vandaveer Ranch. It is going to take a lot of different projects to begin to make a dent in the problem.”

The different projects may include private developers, mixed private and public developments or private developments with incentives.

Brown-Kovacic said the project they hope to put together at Vandaveer will be a range of options, including some units available for those in the 30- to 60-percent area median income (AMI), to meet the needs of smaller rentals for workforce housing, while also offering homes for those in the 80- to 120-percent AMI range, such as teachers, nurses and police officers.

“Hopefully we can move on this as quickly as possible,” Brown-Kovacic said. “I wish we had started on this 10 years ago. We saw some of these signs then, but it was not as crucial as it is today.”

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