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Wellington poised for greater success

March 1, 2005

The Wellington Neighborhood of affordable homes in Breckenridge for working families of many income levels is by all accounts a success.

The good news is more units are on the way.

In recent months, Breckenridge elected officials and Wellington developer David O'Neil have ground out a number of agreements that lay the groundwork for 128 more deed-restricted units.

Deed-restricted units are houses built with a public subsidy under a pricing structure that targets certain units to certain income groups.

The deed-restricted unit, unlike a free-market unit, does not appreciate at the rate of the market, which means something important in a resort community - namely that the houses remain affordable for future homebuyers.

In working out the deal for Wellington's Phase II, town officials did three outstanding things. For one, they limited the amount of improvements that could be realized in a resale price to 10 percent of the original purchase price over five years of ownership. It used to be 15 percent.

They also limited real-estate commissions on a resale to 3 percent, not an insignificant move when 6 percent to 7 percent is the going rate. Market-rate commissions would be a factor in inflating future prices.

Finally, town officials ordered means testing for units targeted at people earning 100 percent of the area median income and lower.

The means testing will prove that houses meant for working families within certain income levels get them, not somebody who can afford more but aims lower because they can.

Affordable housing is a precious commodity and should be protected.

Breckenridge's Wellington, Gibson Heights and Vista Point neighborhoods are home to people living and working in the community year-round. They provide a popular resort community protection against it becoming a ghost town as free market prices rise, squeezing out worker bees.

That's why we can't figure the town of Frisco rolled over so fast and cut two units out of the proposed Belford Street affordable housing project without a full-blown, official public process. Ten is still better than none, but 12 should have been fully examined.

Elected officials and town staff axed the two units based on neighborhood feedback given offstream from a public process.

Isn't this the town where merchants complain a critical mass of locals to support Main Street is disappearing. Well, Main Street, two-family units of valuable affordable housing are gone without a whimper.