EL PASO COUNTY POLICY PLAN


 CHAPTER 1-B

 SECTION 13.0 HOUSING

BACKGROUND
Housing is the predominant developed land use in the County. This dominance is even more pronounced in many unincorporated areas because of the role they play as bedroom communities for the County’s municipalities.
Housing types are ordinarily classified within a number of sectors or submarkets. These include the single-family, multifamily, mobile homes, group quarters and specialized housing classifications. Within these broad categories are a variety of sub-categories. Manufactured housing represents a growing trend within the single-family market.
Single-family
As noted in Table 13.1, the single-family submarket accounts for the majority of all housing in the County. Due to combinations of zoning regulations, infrastructure availability and market preferences, housing in some large areas of the County (e.g. the Black Forest) is almost exclusively limited to the single family sector.
 
Table 13.1
Summary of County-wide and Unincorporated Housing Submarkets 1995

Type

Total Stock

Percent

Unincorporated

Stock

Percent

Single-Family

123,569

68.2

27,982

78.4

Multifamily

49,851

27.0

4,069

11.4

Mobile Homes

8,714

4.8

3,640

10.2

Sources: County-wide figures from Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments 1996 Housing Market Analysis; unincorporated figures derived by the El Paso County Planning Division using 1990 Census data as a base.
Multifamily
While multifamily housing accounts for approximately 27% of the County-wide housing stock, only about 11.4% of unincorporated housing falls within this category. Multifamily housing is largely confined to those areas of the unincorporated County which have a full range of urban services, and only then in those specific areas where it is allowed through zoning. Multifamily occurs in the Security/Widefield area, and to a more limited degree in Cimarron Hills and Tri-Lakes.
Mobile Homes
Estimates of the total number of mobile homes in the County are somewhat inaccurate due to data limitations and the often transitory nature of this sector. Within the unincorporated County, mobile homes are predominantly located in either mobile home parks or as single or small clusters of dwelling units on rural or rural residential properties. In most cases, County zoning does not allow mobile homes on small lot residential properties. In some parts of the eastern County, mobile homes constitute upwards of 50% of the total housing stock.
 
Manufactured Housing
Manufactured housing is an affordable alternative to site-built homes. Manufactured homes are built in a factory environment and in most cases, cost less than similar site-built homes. Factory built housing is one of the fastest growing segments of today’s housing industry. Manufactured housing can range in price from fairly low cost to relatively expensive homes and are readily available in many styles. Many factory built components and panels are also used in the construction of site-built homes.
Due to the recent growth there may be discrepancies between the County’s and the Industry’s definitions for manufactured housing. For the purpose of the Policy Plan, "manufactured housing" refers to factory built homes that are built to UBC and HUD specifications, attached to an engineered permanent foundation and may have exterior features that can be found in site built homes.
Specialized Housing
Group quarters and other forms of specialized housing constitute the balance of available housing options in the County. Group quarters include military barracks, dormitories, hospitals and detention facilities. Other than the military barracks associated with Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy dormitories, this type of housing has a limited occurrence outside of the municipalities. The proportion of the total population in group quarters continues to decline in comparison with total population. Specialized housing includes assisted care facilities for various populations with special needs. The relative role of these other specialized housing facilities in the unincorporated County is limited, but growing in response to needs associated with changing demographics. There are still other housing arrangements such as campgrounds and motels or hotels, but these are considered to be more in the commercial or recreational categories.
Home Ownership
The County-wide rate of home ownership was 57.4% according to the 1990 Census. Ownership rates in the unincorporated County are assumed to be substantially higher due to the preponderance of single-family units. For example, in 1990 owner-occupancy in the Black
Forest and Woodmoor stood at almost 90%, while the rate was over 75 % in Security/Widefield.
Housing Trends
Housing construction in El Paso County generally follows the highs and lows of the economic cycle in response to changes in population and employment. One major long term trend has been a proportionally larger increase in the number of units in comparison to population growth. The cause of this has been a continuing decline in the average household size. Over 20,000 new units have been added in the County over the period from 1990 through 1996. Most of these have been single family homes. Between the mid 1980’s and mid 1990’s multifamily construction had been almost non-existent. This was due to a combination of over-development in this sector during the prior period, unfavorable changes in the tax structure and lack of available capital for this purpose.
Home prices, home ownership and rental costs have also cycled up and down with general economic conditions, specifically in the balance between supply and demand in the various submarkets. The recent upward surge in prices of new and existing homes has made home ownership less affordable for the median wage earner. Due to a very tight market, rental costs have also increased at a rate much greater than income growth among the segment of the population in the rental market.
Another trend in the housing market has been a relative increase in the size of residences. Where the average size of a new single family home in the 1970’s was about 1,500 square feet, this has escalated to over 2,000 square feet in the 1990’s.
Military Role
The military population plays a unique role in the overall County housing market. Due to the limited availability of on-base housing the majority of enlisted personnel live off of these installations. As military assignments rarely exceed a duration of four years, this population tends to be very transitory but their demographic profile remains relatively constant and provides a steady supply of renters and purchasers for the local housing market. Although there are plans to add approximately 2,600 units of privately built and managed on-base housing, these additional units should not have a measurable effect on the local housing market.
County Housing Programs
Traditionally, the County has played a limited role in the subsiding of housing. Currently, the County neither operates low income housing units nor does it directly subsidize the housing costs for individuals on a continuing basis as provided by Section 8 of the Federal Housing and Community Development Act (rental subsidies). However, for several years the County has participated in a variety of bond programs intended to provide lower interest mortgages to qualifying home buyers in selected target areas. The County has also participated in programs in which the buyers of apartment complexes are afforded lower mortgage rates in return for maintaining the rent on a certain proportion of their units at a prescribed level.
Issue 13.1 accommodate Housing Submarkets
As has been described in the Background Section, in aggregate the unincorporated areas of the County have been and will likely always be most conducive to the traditional single family submarket. However, there is evidence that demographic trends (particularly the aging of our population and increase in single-parent households) will create a demand for variations from the traditional model of a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 2-car garage single-family detached house.
Within the single family submarket there has been a trend in recent years toward factory built structures of various types including modular. Factory built housing is an affordable alternative to site built homes, although conformity with public zoning or private covenants sometimes is an issue.
Covenants are essentially private deed restrictions placed upon a property, usually by the original developer. Among other things, covenants often dictate specific criteria related to housing types and styles. For example, it is quite common for covenants to preclude mobile homes and manufactured housing even though these uses may be allowed through the applicable zoning. Because both the development and enforcement of covenants are a civil matter (typically between the individual lot owner and either a homeowners association or a developer), county government has no authority in these matters.
Factory built housing, panels and components are rapidly changing and gaining a larger share of the housing market. With the recent changes, the manufactured housing industry has developed new housing standards and definitions that may now be inconsistent with the County’s definitions and zoning codes.
Although there are several areas of the unincorporated County which are potentially available for multifamily housing, opportunities in many sub-areas are limited. Reasons for this include lack of appropriate infrastructure, limited market incentives over the past decade, dependence on reliable transportation, and resistance by many residents of the County to the increased densities associated with multi-family housing.
Mobile homes present a particular housing challenge in the unincorporated County. While demand has increased, essentially no new mobile home parks have been developed in the County. Exceptions to this are several smaller parks which have been developed in the eastern county. The county has a mobile home subdivision zone district within its regulations, but no projects of this type have been developed to date.
A common impediment to the approval of new mobile home developments is that they are often proposed for rural areas which do not have the full mix of urban services necessary for their proper functioning. Conversely, in more developed areas, these projects either are not economically feasible or meet opposition from surrounding property owners.
Because of their unique and variable characteristics, many types of specialized housing can also raise planning issues. Often these uses are proposed within more traditional residential neighborhoods. Some of the issues, such as service capacity, parking and traffic, are largely physical in nature. Other issues are less tangible but may be no less important. These include real and perceived concerns with factors such as public safety and property values. In some situations, the compatibility of specialized housing proposals may not be a significant issue, however its fit within the existing regulatory framework may present difficulties.
Goal 13.1 Encourage an adequate supply of housing types to meet the needs of county residents.
Policy 13.1.1
Encourage a sufficient supply and choice of housing at varied price and rent levels through land development regulations.
Policy 13.1.2
Support the provision of land use availability to meet the housing needs of county residents.
Policy 13.1.3
Recognize the need for housing alternatives that provide for the county’s special populations. (Special populations may include low income, elderly, physically and mentally impaired).
Policy 13.1.4
Recognize the changes occurring in the factory built housing industry and where appropriate, consider modifications to the County’s definitions and zoning code to accommodate these changes.
ISSUE 13.2 meet Affordability needs
The "affordable housing" issue is an important one because housing costs constitute the single largest budget item for most households. Due to the substantial and widening variance of income among different socioeconomic groups, acceptable housing needs to be available across a wide price range in order to supply an affordable alternative for the majority of the area’s population.
For a variety of reasons, an overall decrease exists in the affordability of housing throughout the 1990’s as measured by the inability of median wage earners to purchase a median-priced home or afford median rents charged for apartments.
It should be recognized that the housing market as a segment of the overall market economy is subject to cycles that influence housing prices and availability.
Some of this affordability crisis is a largely unavoidable by-product of a boom and bust supply and demand market cycle and can be expected to compensate for itself as the market adapts. Other aspects, such as the low pay scales associated with many unskilled service-sector jobs, represent obstacles which cannot easily be addressed at the local government level. However, factors within the public domain do influence housing affordability and these can be addressed.
Communities benefit from having a wide range of affordable housing options which allow people to live in close proximity to where they work. Affordability problems arise because households do not have enough income to pay for available housing, or because there is an insufficient supply of housing, which tends to raise prices due to the law of supply and demand. When either or both of these conditions apply, local workers are dislocated and/or employees are imported from across the region. Several related problems may result including the following:
1. Increased traffic congestion and lengthy commutes
2. Poor air quality due to increased traffic
3. Loss of long term residents
4. Loss of sense of identity
5. Employment related problems, e.g., absenteeism, dissatisfaction.
Goal 13.2 Encourage a diversity of affordable housing types throughout the unincorporated county to meet the housing need for the people who work in our communities.
Policy 13.2.1
Encourage incentives, such as flexible development standards through logical modifications to zoning, subdivision regulations, building codes, water/sewer fees, etc., as market incentives to provide housing that fall within the housing affordability index of 100.0 to balance the discrepancy between the cost for affordable housing and average annual wage.
Policy 13.2.2
Encourage a Simple Needs Assessment as indicated in Table 13.3 of the Technical Appendix, for housing in sub-regions of the County as part of developing or updating the County’s Small Area Plans.
Policy 13.2.3
Encourage the consideration for affordable housing when reviewing proposals for major employment centers.
Policy 13.2.4
Consider ways to encourage affordable housing such as community land trusts or other methods referenced in Table 13.2.
Policy 13.2.5
Educate the general population as to the importance of maintaining a housing balance within the sub-regions of the county.
Policy 13.2.6
Consider higher densities for affordable housing when located in association with available services.
Policy 13.2.7
Periodically review the Land Development Code and other pertinent regulations to ensure that they adequately address changing technical and market conditions.
Policy 13.2.7
Encourage the issuance by the County of tax-exempt bonds to provide lower interest rates for first-time homebuyers or developers of multifamily projects.
ISSUE 13.3 consider Low Cost Housing
Although the City of Colorado Springs, through its Housing Authority, has established programs to address housing problems faced by low-income families, low-income elderly, and the handicapped, the County has in general not been involved in this area of housing assistance.
One program the County has participated in is the Mortgage Revenue Bond Program. This Program has issued tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds since 1979 to provide low to middle income residents with first mortgages for the purchase of a home. The interest rate differential provided by these bond programs results in a lower monthly payment and provides those with lower income the opportunity to qualify for a loan. However, in times of lower interest rates, the ability to achieve a substantial interest rate reduction is unrealizable and the effectiveness of the program lessened.
Goal 13.3 Encourage the provision of low cost housing without direct County involvement whenever possible.
Policy 13.3.1
Consider market driven approaches and land use plans that provide for low income housing.
Policy 13.3.2
Support the low cost housing efforts of private and non-profit organizations.
Policy 13.3.3
Support government low cost housing assistance programs as appropriate.
ISSUE 13.4 consider Transportation
A critical two-way relationship exists between housing and transportation systems. As more residents, who are willing to commute long distances in order to enjoy more personal space, disperse to more remote locations within the unincorporated county, travel demands increase and an additional burden is placed on the network of regional roads. However, the ability to commute long distances relies on the ability of State and local governments to provide and maintain the network of roads necessary to support this practice.
Reasonable dispersion of housing choices throughout the County may contribute to more efficiency in the job-housing mix. When a variety of housing type and affordability choices are available in proximity to employment and commercial centers there can be an effective reduction demand on transportation infrastructure.
Goal 13.4 Encourage a positive relationship between housing development, land use planning and transportation systems.
Policy 13.4.1
Consider the impact of housing density on the transportation system.
Policy 13.4.2
Consider the cost of upgrading and maintaining roadways for dispersed large lot subdivisions.
Policy 13.4.3
Encourage incorporating accommodations for alternative transportation modes such as pedestrian/bike routes, express bus service and small park and ride lots when considering developments.
 
See Tables 13.2 referencing "Affordable Housing Alternatives" and 13.3 "Simple Needs Assessment"
in the Technical Appendix, page ___ .
 
Sources:
Housing Market Analysis for the Colorado Springs MSA; Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments
El Paso County Department of Economic Development and Public Finance.


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