Nico Foster and his wife have been hunting for a house in Durango for several months, and while they want to stay in town, they have thought seriously about moving to Mancos.
“We feel this town is a run away train as far as real estate,” he said, in an interview.
They were among the crowd that packed a room at the Durango Public Library on Thursday at a city forum to discuss ways to address the affordable housing crisis.
Attendees offered a variety of suggestions, including redirecting sales taxes to support housing, increasing density and asking employers or second homeowners to help pay for affordable housing.
The city will use the suggestions to help develop housing policy proposals.
City staff members are also considering changing regulations that govern parking, height and density to help encourage housing, Planner Mark Williams told the crowd. The city has been working with an advisory committee to help guide these proposals
“We can’t regulate our way into affordable housing. ... We have to change the way we evaluate housing, he said.
However, the city could play a supporting role in affordable housing. A city consultant is studying fees new, large employers, such as a hotel could pay to help support transit and housing. The study could be finished by the end of the winter.
Asking employers to help provide affordable housing may be appropriate because low-paying jobs do not cover the cost of housing in town, Joe Lewandowski said.
The city could also start setting aside land that could be reserved for housing and reserving fees in a housing fund that could be used to support housing, such as mortgage assistance, Williams said.
Increasing density has been a strategy the Durango City Council has embraced to encourage affordable housing in recent years and audience member Mark Sandoval suggested more ideas to encourage this kind of density.
Allowing smaller lots could help encourage smaller and therefore more affordable homes, he said.
Instead of building rental units on lots with existing homes, stand-alone homes on their own small lots could encourage home ownership, he said.
However, additional density could put more pressure on the city’s infrastructure such as streets and water and sewer services, which are already at capacity in some places, resident Nick Anesi said.
Creating more density in older parts of town has been controversial in the past, but the town is likely already more dense than people realize, Williams said.
The density cap in historic Durango is about eight units per acre, but the reality is likely closer to 12 units per acre, he said.
“Where they live is probably denser, than what they think,” he said.
Another audience member suggested asking voters to redirect sales taxes currently used to purchase and maintain open space to help maintain housing.
This could be appropriate because the city may be reaching a point where it is amenity-rich and needs to focus on housing and infrastructure instead, Community Development Director Kevin Hall said.