Housing authority tackles deed restrictions
‘Master’ document aimed at creating uniformity
Times Staff Writer
Originally published 2013-02-28
Lack of continuity for affordable housing deed restrictions has been a headache for homeowners, municipalities and the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA) for years.
It’s something the organization’s new Executive Director Karl Fulmer is seeking to remedy by crafting a master deed restriction for future affordable properties.
Fulmer — who came on board at GVRHA last October — created master deed restriction guidelines for the housing authority in Blaine County, Idaho, home of Sun Valley Resort, prior to coming to Gunnison County.
He said that a little uniformity can go a long way.
“We’re trying to preserve the long-term affordability and continuity between all the municipalities in the county so the program is understandable valley-wide,” he explained. “If there’s one deed restriction that’s used everywhere, it doesn’t take much to figure out.”
Deed restrictions are used nationally to preserve the affordability of housing. Restrictions generally cap the annual appreciation of a property and the income bracket of the buyer. Yet, with at least five different entities in Gunnison County authoring deed restrictions — including Habitat for Humanity, the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, GVRHA and property owners associations — restrictions can differ and enforcement can be difficult.
“You can’t make any assumptions (about deed restrictions in the county) — some vary within a development itself,” he said. “Real estate professionals are confused, buyers and sellers are confused and the housing authority staff are confused. They were written by multiple entities in multiple places. It’s much more cumbersome than it needs to be.”
In the Town of Crested Butte alone, there are six different deed restrictions, pointed out John Hess, director of planning and community development, “which means it’s real hard for me to give someone an answer (about their property) without taking out the book and looking up the neighborhood.”
“That’s a function of having new people involved in town council and them saying, ‘Well, I’ve got a better idea,’” Hess continued. “And they do have a better idea, but once a property is deed restricted, the town can’t change that — the property owner has to agree.”
As for developing a county-wide master deed restriction, “I think it’s a great idea,” he said.
Ed Seymour, vice president of the GVRHA board and a Gunnison councilman, said that he sees master deed restrictions as a way to streamline the process in the future.
“I don’t see it so much as a correction (to existing deed restrictions), but more as, let’s make it easier in the future,” he said.
Fulmer described his vision for GVRHA’s master deed restriction, which has been drafted and will be presented to the organization’s board in coming weeks.
“The same document could be used throughout the valley, whether in Mt. Crested Butte, Crested Butte or Gunnison,” he explained. “It would be very specific. The calculation procedures would be the same. They would be tied to housing guidelines, which designates income brackets and sales categories.”
Properties that are already deed restricted will likely remain as is.
“The board has stated that we have to recognize reality and that is, it would take a great deal of staff time and effort to try to change those (deed restrictions) that already exist, and it might not even be accomplishable,” Fulmer said. “We’ve decided to look forward. Let’s focus on the future and not make the same mistakes twice, and get everybody on the same page if we possibly can.”
Fulmer said he drew on deed restrictions from other ski towns and resort areas to craft the draft master deed restriction.
“I’m building on years of experience elsewhere to make sure mistakes aren’t made again here,” he said.
To learn more about GVRHA, visit the organization’s newly launched website at www.gvhra.org.
(Laura Anderson can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)