Results in on Tusayan housing study

Survey conducted by International Housing Solutions at a cost of $17,000 concludes 32 percent of residents would like to own their own home

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - With affordable housing a priority for Tusayan's town council, plans to develop a housing authority for the 40 acres the town has in escrow are in the works.

Hired by the town to develop a course of action for housing, International Housing Solutions initially visited Tusayan in May, listened to business owners and surveyed the housing situation. After hey returned in early June, the Colorado-based firm presented housing options in the ski areas of Colorado and Utah as examples of what they can be possible in Tusayan.

"We presented a variety of types of units, construction methods, the financial approaches, exposing them to all that so they can figure out what they would want," consultant John Young said.

On July 11, the firm presented the findings of their survey, that took a snapshot of a typical employee in Tusayan. The survey, for which the town paid around $17,000, asked questions pertaining to housing needs and income.

Young said the anonymous mail-in survey was sent back to the housing firm's address in Colorado so survey-takers could be candid and honest.

As of press time, the consulting firm received around 150 responses in a three-week period. The number sent out was unknown by Young, who said some employers took more surveys than they needed, but it was in the neighborhood of 500. And because they didn't set a deadline, some surveys are still arriving.

"We showed the council the stack of responses," Young said. "This wasn't a made up thing where we sat in the back room and filled a bunch of them out. They are all in the employees' handwriting. So it was a very clean survey."

According to their analysis, 90 percent of the community who completed the housing survey rent their homes and seven percent are homeowners. Also, 25 percent of Tusayan residents are looking for a new rental home, and 32 percent would like to own, which suggest a demand for each type of housing.

After an assessment of incomes, Young concluded about two-thirds of the population were in a position to be homeowners.

Moving forward, the firm recommended the town should move swiftly toward creating a housing authority.

"So there is an entity that's full focus is to make housing happen as fast as possible," Young said.

After the council officially approves the extension of their contract, International Housing Solutions's goal is to insure Tusayan has "a fully functioning and duly empowered housing authority" by the end of the year. To do that, they will be back to Tusayan several times to work with closely with the council.

"There is a hesitation because there is the possibility that we could lose the land in a few years, but right now its in escrow and they've deeded it over to us," Councilman Bill Fitzgerald said. "So, like the stock market, you hope it doesn't go down or crash."

Tusayan Mayor Greg Bryan said that even though the housing authority is yet to be defined, the group will have the ability, to a degree, to manage, plan and direct the development of Tusayan's future housing.

"It will only, as we envision it, be responsible for the town's housing, it won't get into the developer's housing," Bryan said.

Per the development agreement, Italian developers, The Stilo Group were required to deed 40 acres to the town after the development proposal was accepted.

According to the agreement, on Ten-X or Kotzin Ranch, Stilo has to provide a 25 home subdivision with lots that are available for sale to the public and have at least five single family home building permits in place. Only once that has occurred, does the town fully own the property. All of this must be accomplished within 48 months of the town's approval of the development agreement, something that occurred in April.

"They don't have to build, they only really have to get it approved," zoning and real estate lawyer Carolyn Oberholtzer said, who represents Red Feather Properties, a local Tusayan business.

Oberholtzer maintains that, because of the development agreement's requirements, there is no guarantee the town will be able to hold on to the land.

"Because of that tenuous nature, it doesn't seem prudent at all to spend money," she added. "It seems like a potential waste of effort, unless of course, the money is being spent on due diligence to evaluate the viability of building on that land, like a water source. That kind of stuff kind of makes sense to evaluate now, so they can even decide if they even want it."

Bryan acknowledged the town isn't in "total control" of the development, but because the land is in escrow, the project will continue to advance.

"The housing authority is going to take a year or two to develop and so it makes sense for the housing authority to be created and start its work," Bryan said. "We have a timeline and we are moving forward with the belief that it will all take place."

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