A shortage of affordable and attainable housing has become one of the most vexing community issues in many regions in Colorado, particularly in ski resort communities such as Steamboat Springs and the greater Yampa Valley. The desirability of the area combined with an increase in remote work due to the global pandemic has caused a dramatic uptick in real estate purchases and a skyrocketing of median home sales prices and rents in recent years. A corresponding lack of affordable housing contributes to worker shortages in businesses from restaurants to recreation outfitters to childcare centers, and a subsequent scarcity of essential services for residents.
The Yampa Valley Community Foundation (YVCF) is pleased to have played a role in a significant and impactful grant toward funding a long-term solution for the affordable housing problem in Routt County. A smaller foundation with a staff of 4.75 FTE, one of our greatest strengths is our personal connection with donors, deep knowledge of the issues faced by nonprofits in the region, and an individualized approach to philanthropy. And staff who river raft! These elements coalesced in the summer of 2021 when philanthropists who had recently relocated to the region expressed interest in learning more about local issues and joined a donor engagement float trip. Over the course of a day spent floating the Yampa River with YVCF’s Executive Director Tim Wohlgenant and Donor Engagement Manager Traci Hiatt, the conversation ranged from western water policy to health and human service needs to affordable housing. The latter topic included discussion of a unique opportunity for the acquisition of a parcel of land by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority (YVHA). Shortly after the float, with YVCF serving as fundholder and grantor, the anonymous philanthropists donated $24M to YVHA for the purchase of 536-acre Brown Ranch on the west side of Steamboat. The property will be developed into a wide variety of affordable housing options and services under the leadership of YVHA’s Executive Director Jason Peasley and a Steering Committee of community volunteers. Although the work to thoughtfully design and develop the property has just begun, our Foundation is proud to have sparked the generous and impactful donation that’s now a key part of solving the area’s affordable housing problem.