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November 14, 2012
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Housing deal in offing in Basalt

ASPEN - Pitkin County is poised to purchase a second Basalt townhouse to be used for worker housing. It could have a lot of prospective takers.

The purchase price for the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home in the Columbines at Elk Run is $330,000, but the intention is to make it available to the general work force as rental housing at the Category 1 level - the least expensive price range in the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority guidelines.

The county can make the unit available at Category 1 rental rates without significant subsidy, and it would fulfill a need local governments haven't addressed within the housing program, said County Manager Jon Peacock. The lack of a subsidy is calculated by considering how much the county will spend on the unit and recoup in rent versus what it would have earned by investing the money spent on the unit, he said.

Applicants must qualify as full-time workers in Pitkin County under the authority's rules, but County Commissioner Rachel Richards suggested Tuesday that the housing office consider holding a lottery, or drawing, to pick the renter of the unit. Lotteries typically are conducted for sale units in the worker housing inventory, not rentals.

"I would anticipate a lot of people will be anxious to get a Category 1," she said. "You have to be careful about how you put a unit that rare on the market."

The maximum monthly rent for a Category 1, three-bedroom unit is $802, according to the housing authority guidelines. No such unit currently exists in the housing inventory, according to Cindy Christensen, housing authority operations manager. Most Category 1 units are geared for single occupants.

Christensen couldn't predict what kind of interest the unit will attract, but called the price a "strong selling point" for a family that wants to rent in Basalt.

The county has already purchased a three-bedroom Elk Run unit that will be rented to a county-government employee at a Category 2 or 3 rate.

An employee with two dependents and a salary of $49,000 to $68,000 would qualify for the Category 2 rental rate, which has a range of $802 to $1,270 per month.

"We have high demand right now for the one unit," County Manager Jon Peacock said.

If multiple county-government employees who each have a family that can fill three bedrooms express interest, a drawing likely will be used to pick the occupant, he said.

The county has embarked on an effort to purchase perhaps a dozen individual units, using part of more than $10 million in accumulated housing funds. The two Basalt townhomes are the first purchases.

Commissioners confirmed Tuesday that all of the purchased units should be rentals, with half going to county government employees and half offered to qualified workers in the community. They also agreed on other general policies regarding the housing.

janet@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Nov 14, 2012 06:09AM Published Nov 14, 2012 12:23AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.