County survey to assess housing

RBC I A year and a half ago, during the energy boom, it was difficult to find housing in Rio Blanco County.
Now that the boom is over, housing is more available. But the county and both towns are still interested in trying to get a better idea of the area’s housing needs.
That’s why local officials are encouraging individuals and business owners to respond to a housing survey, which is available both online and at the town halls in Rangely and Meeker, as well as at the chamber of commerce offices in both towns, and at county offices. There’s a link to the survey on both towns’ Web sites, as well as both chambers’ sites and the county’s.
“We’re really trying to get some baseline data, so we can figure out what the housing needs are,” said Meeker Town Administrator Sharon Day. “I know they are much different from a year ago, but we want to know what are the problems. Is is affordability? Is it lack of inventory? I think we all think we know what the problems are, but until we hear from the citizens, we don’t know.”
In Rangely, where the response has been slow so far, Town Manager Peter Brixius said a copy of the survey will be mailed to residents with their next utility bill.
Brixius said the housing survey will serve an important purpose.
“I think the survey is going to be an excellent tool to validate what we perceive as housing deficiencies in terms of types of housing, the affordability of housing and the availability of certain types of housing,” Brixius said.
The hope, Brixius said, is the survey will help town and county officials better assess the housing needs and come up with a long-term plan to meet them.
“This survey is hopefully an opportunity for us to promote growth, the kind of growth that has not occurred here in our boom-and-bust cycles,” Brixius said. “We’re looking for a housing solution, so when good times hit, we have available housing, which has been a problem.”
In order to more accurately assess the county’s housing needs, officials need a broad sampling of people from both ends of the county to respond to the survey.
“When people respond, they can help us draft a better solution for housing in the future,” Brixius said.
There is also an incentive to responding to the survey.
“Respondents will be entered in a drawing to win one of three $100 Chamber Bucks vouchers,” said Melanie Rees of Rees Consulting of Crested Butte, who is involved in the project.
The survey responses are confidential, Rees stressed.
“There’s no way we can trace it back to the person,” she said.
Originally, officials had hoped to have the survey completed by Oct. 1, but because of the slower-than-expected response, the survey has been extended.
“The goal is to have the study finished by the end of the year,” Meeker Town Administrator Day said.
The survey is being conducted by RRC Associates of Boulder. Funding for the survey came from a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant for almost $50,000.
There are two types of surveys — one for employers to fill out and one for employees. The survey takes about 10 or 15 minutes to complete.
Day is optimistic the survey will provide valuable information about the county’s housing needs.
“No. 1, all of us will have a better idea of where the gaps are, and what types of housing people prefer,” Day said. “I think also it will help in any master planning the towns or county are doing, and what might be pursued. And it will be a wonderful tool for any developer wanting to do a project in this area, because they’ll have a better idea of what people are looking for.”