Of all the issues in this election, affordable housing perhaps best illustrates the fundamental difference in approach to government between incumbent Democrat County Commissioner Jerry Mallett and his Republican challenger Frank Holman. Broadly speaking, Holman believes in less government while Mallett’s actions point toward the belief that a judicious infusion of government resources can help cure what ails a community.
A complex question with no easy answer, both candidates acknowledge that affordable housing is a high priority concern for residents of Chaffee County. Earlier this year, Mallett helped create the Chaffee Housing Trust. This is a non-profit that is designated to own the real estate while the homeowner owns the house and any improvements.
Recently, the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the donation of public land at the intersection of Mesa Lane and Crestone Avenues in Salida to help get Crestone Heights, the housing trust’s first affordable housing project, off the ground. During a work session on the project, Mallett rebuffed such basic questions about the project as appraised value of the public land and particulars of the donation and subsequent administration of the project by the non-profit housing trust. By unanimous vote, the county commissioners approved the land donation.
Holman questions whether there was conflict in the above-mentioned county land donation since Mallett is both a county commissioner and member of the board of the housing trust. However, he also said the Chaffee Housing Trust may well be a good solution to this vexing issue but he needs more proof to become a believer that it’s a solution that “works and makes sense.”
From his viewpoint, Holman points to new products in modular homes as a possible solution to the affordable housing issue. He explained some modulars allow for people to add on additional rooms onto the base unit as household budgets allow. Finally, Holman said he believes some of the county’s building regulations and permitting requirements drive the cost of new homes upward and that he would convene a panel of experts to study the issue to see if there can be ways to help mitigate the situation.