As the saying goes, "the more one focuses on a plan's perceived defects, the larger they become." Unfortunately, when it comes to density, this is often the case. However, a density-based approach can offer both neighborhood protections and incremental housing opportunities.
Chaffee County is known for its beautiful open space, and many fear that density will lead to urban sprawl. However, if implemented thoughtfully, density can be an efficient way to tap into existing infrastructure and provide services in a cost-effective manner.
For many communities, workforce housing is a major issue. The cost of land and building units can be major obstacles, but smaller lot sizes and units can help address these issues. Private/public partnerships can also be beneficial, such as allowing developers to build more units in return for creating permanent affordability on a portion of them.
The 505 Oak Street Planned Development and Major Subdivision in Salida is a great example of how density can help solve the housing crisis. The developers had a right to build 28 condos that could be purchased by anyone. Negotiating with developers allowed for 44 units, with 34 being a mix of market rate rentals and permanently affordable rentals. This is twice as many affordable units as the community would have received otherwise, and the fact that they’re rentals makes the development more likely to provide housing for locals as opposed to out-of-towners.
The challenge is to communicate that one cannot be for workforce housing but against density.
Density is a crucial tool we can use to help provide for the workers who keep our community running. By embracing density with proper safeguards, we can solve our workforce housing crisis.