Colorado: Politicians look to get federal land for “affordable housing”

“It could open the floodgates to losing more and more of our public
lands,” said Leigh Girvin, director of the Continental Divide Land
Trust. After local planners described more than a dozen plots of land
that might be suitable for attainable work-force housing, County
Commissioner Thomas Davidson told them it’s not enough. “I don’t think
we’ve identified enough land. We need to find Forest Service land that
is suitable for affordable housing,” Davidson said during a work
session last week.

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“We need to take a look at the needs assessment (a recent document
that pinpoints the demand for locals’ housing) and the acreage that’s
been identified and compare. If (we) come up with something like 800
units per acre, well, then we need to look harder.” Davidson explained
that there are appropriate ways to trade county-owned inholdings, or
parcels of land surrounded by national forest, for parcels the agency
has identified as disposable. “We need to take a page from the
playbook of developers and use that for affordable housing,” Davidson
said, referring to past land trades that have ended up in high-end
slope-side developments. “I don’t think we have a choice,” he
continued. ”

When we look at the needs for the next 15 to 20 years, I
don’t know what else to do. We do have many past sins to atone for.”
But several conservation experts questioned the philosophy of carving
into public lands. “Did they take a Republican pill? Were they sipping
martinis and smoking cigars?” said Currie Craven, a Breckenridge
public-lands advocate and steward who co-founded Friends of the Eagles
Nest Wilderness. Craven said the plan to look for national-forest land
is an ill-advised first step down a dangerous path. Using public
lands, owned by all citizens of the United States, should be the last
option, Craven said. Girvin said she’s not opposed in principle to
using land trades to acquire appropriate pieces of national-forest
land for important community purposes.

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