Ridgway-Ouray Community Council members have taken on affordable housing as an issue with these goals:
- Make sure that people who work in Ouray County can afford to live in Ouray County.
- Ensure that Ouray County remains a diverse and inclusive community that includes people from all walks of life.
ROCC’s short-term objective is to change/update city and county codes to be more affordable housing friendly. A longer-term objective is to secure public funding for a professionally-staffed Ouray County Housing Authority.
Beginning in 2016, ROCC’s campaign has definitely started a vigorous conversation as evidenced by:
- numerous articles in the local newspaper,
- a robust discussion of the topic during a candidate forum for County Commissioner,
- serious discussions in Ridgway government about possible higher density zoning areas for such housing,
- first-ever appropriation of money (though not nearly enough) by all three government entities toward affordable housing, and
- the Ouray County Housing Authority meeting regularly after four years of not meeting at all. ROCC members are attending these meetings, as well as those of planning commissions and town councils, in order to keep the conversation going.
2016 Affordable Housing Forum: Fifty community members packed Ridgway Town Hall on Sept. 19, 2016, for a forum on affordable housing co-hosted by ROCC and the Ouray County Housing Authority. Moderated by ROCC member Dick Gingery, the forum included a panel of local elected officials, business and industry representatives, and local housing expert Shirley Diaz.
As reported in the Ouray County Plaindealer, Ridgway Mayor John Clark echoed the sentiment of the ROCC Social Justice Committee when he said the public attitude toward affordable housing needs to change. “We are going to have to have heart-wrenching, soul-searching discussions about what this means and how, really, we have to realize that the only way [this community] is going to keep its character and what we all love about it is if…all walks of life can live here.” Hear, hear!
Background: A 2011 regional and Ouray County needs assessment identified affordable housing as a problem. In that assessment 30% of households were living in unaffordable housing.
- Forty employees of the Ridgway School District live outside of Ouray County.
- The staff critical to keeping the power on for San Miguel Power Association live in Montrose County, necessitating needless delay in the event of a significant power outage.
- People in the tourist service industry in Ouray were still commuting from Montrose, but now on the icy roads of winter as well as on the heavily traveled roads of summer.
As the government entities in the county became more aware of the lack of affordable housing, the Town of Ridgway, the City of Ouray, and the county commissioners created a housing authority, but initially left it unfunded in its first several years of operation. As a result, it met infrequently and accomplished little.
However, the pressure of the issue, including some pressure applied by the ROCC Social Justice Committee, pushed the governments into providing a base funding for the housing authority of $6,000 at the end of 2016. While this is a start, even members of the Housing Authority recognize that an amount of money much larger than that will be required before the it can begin to be truly effective in providing affordable housing.