The Sunnyside housing development along the Spur is scheduled to be complete by April 2022. (Courtesy image)

Unless you’re Rumpelstiltskin, you’re aware of the regional affordable housing shortage. While there’s no quick and easy fix, creative cooperation between the Town of Telluride and San Miguel County has led to the current construction of 30 rental units on the north side of the Spur. The Sunnyside housing development includes four separate structures, which will consist of tiny homes, one- and two-bedroom apartment units, and three- and four-bedroom townhomes — one of which is designed to accommodate a licensed day care facility.

The county-owned, four-acre parcel was annexed to the town in enabling access to sewer and water, and to utilize town’s onsite development expertise. The town will also manage zoning, cash subsidies and fee waivers. Like the Gold Run housing development, both the town and county were equal participants in subcommittee public planning for the Sunnyside development over the past year-plus.

Upon breaking ground this spring, significant geotechnical concerns arose around rockfall hazards, prompting construction of rock wall fencing and extensive retaining walls, as well as utilization of soil nailing to flatten out the site.

In spite of these challenges and barring supply chain issues and unforeseen delays, county manager Mike Bordogna said the project remains on schedule for an end-of-April 2022 completion, with tenants moving in early summer.

The project is a Net-Zero project, which means that through the use of extensive solar panels, electricity will be generated equal to, or greater than, the project’s cumulative electricity use on an annual basis.

“There’s no gas connection to the site, reducing carbon emissions further, and we created a carbon calculation for the development to ensure low carbon intensity and to mitigate the total carbon footprint post-construction,” county commissioner Hilary Cooper said.

As the first Net-Zero development in the county, and possibly the first development to mitigate its own carbon footprint, the state provided funding for the project to serve as a pilot program.

“This project demonstrates to other rural and mountain communities that this is achievable even in a cold, high-alpine landscape,” Bordogna said.

The town has subsidized the construction of each unit by just under $100,000 to achieve the Area Median Income cost target in the 80-110 percent range, which will, in turn, yield more affordable rents.

Town program manager Lance McDonald noted that the town is subsidizing the project from both the Affordable Housing Fund and Temp Fund, which will specifically cover the cost of solar panels and energy-efficiency equipment.

“We’re building in the low-to-mid-$300s per square foot, including everything,” he said. “Design costs, rock wall fence, solar — everything.”

Since tenants also often spend a lot on utilities, Bordogna said that because this project is Net-Zero it will “decrease to an almost non-existent level the cost for heating, cooling and utilities.”

While the hope is that residents will access regional transportation instead of owning and driving cars, each unit will have one or two assigned parking spaces, as well as an enclosed, private storage room and an outdoor deck or patio.

Rent schedules, occupancy dates and qualification policies will be established in early 2022.

“I anticipate that there will be a lottery system for renting the units because I think there will be more demand than there are units available,” Bordogna said. “The town and the county will also reserve and pay for two units each for their employees who need to be closer to their base of response.”

Out of roughly 8,100 full-time county residents, Bordogna explained that 70 percent of the population resides in the Telluride R-1 School District, from Placerville up to Lizard Head.

“Because the majority of our residents and their businesses are based out of the Telluride-Mountain Village area, the housing need is most acute in the east end of the county,” he said.

With the unexpected real estate boom during the COVID-19 pandemic contributing the workforce housing shortage, especially in the east end, county officials are urgently working to determine feasibility for housing across county lands, Cooper explained.

“We’re about to initiate an analysis of county land purchased for affordable housing to prioritize projects,” she said. “In some cases we have land without water, which will require creative planning. We’re also reviewing our land use and building codes and drafting an affordable housing zone to increase density in appropriate areas while we continue to explore land banking opportunities.”

McDonald added that the town is currently in the design process for two affordable housing projects and will soon commence the design process for a third project.

“The fact that these are Net-Zero units, combined with the capping of the rent cost for those folks who qualify, really makes for a situation where somebody can find a foothold in our community and start to envision what their longtime future might look like here,” Bordogna said.