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January 8, 2013
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Aspen council: System needed for RO homes

ASPEN - Some sort of priority or lottery system would be better than nothing when the time comes to make a decision about who can get a million-dollar home at Burlingame II, a majority of City Council members decided during a Tuesday work session.

R. Barry Crook, assistant city manager, posed a question to council members concerning resident-occupied homes - commonly referred to as the "RO category." They are the most expensive worker residences and consist of three-bedroom units, usually with a basement. Unlike the lower housing categories consisting of smaller residences, their construction is not subsidized by taxpayers.

Crook asked whether potential buyers of resident-occupied homes who don't fall under established "priority" guidelines could be considered for Burlingame II's pre-sales effort. "Priority" buyers are those who match the requirements for the amount of time they've been a part of the local work force and their number of dependents in relation to the number of bedrooms in the unit they want to buy.

This year, construction will begin on a portion of the 82 units that would be built under Burlingame II-A, an extension of the 91-unit Burlingame Ranch workforce-housing development that was completed in late 2008. Plans currently call for construction of four residences in the RO category under Burlingame II-A in 2015. Perhaps another two will be built later in the decade under Burlingame II-B, a project that also calls for building 82 units.

Crook told council members that around three or four people have expressed an interest in an RO home at Burlingame II. He said city staff had no particular recommendation on the matter, but wanted the council's direction on how to proceed. He said that even if the "priority" rule were relaxed, there likely would not be a flood of applicants for the homes.

Council members indicated that they were not in favor of a buyer who would be the lone occupant. They want three-bedroom homes to go to couples - married or not - with or without children.

Since no taxpayer subsidy is involved, most councilmen expressed a willingness to relax the rules regarding priority buyers, but not completely.

"Two people, going for three (bedrooms), I think we'll do that," said Mayor Mick Ireland.

Councilman Torre said he wouldn't be willing to support the sale of RO homes to those who haven't worked in Pitkin County for less than four years. But Crook said the council previously waived the four-year requirement related to the sale of RO homes.

Though the four-year priority rule would not apply, "They would still have to be employed here in order to complete the purchase," Crook said.

Councilman Adam Frisch expressed a concern with the "first come, first serve" approach Crook advocated for lining up buyers.

"If you would like us to create a lottery for this ... we can do it that way," Crook said.

Ireland said he had no problem with a lottery or priority system for RO home sales, but noted that history has proven that the category produces an extremely low number of bidders.

Councilman Derek Johnson asked whether selling RO homes helps the city financially, given that money for a nonsubsidized residence flows into the overall project, most of which is taxpayer subsidized.

Crook replied that it doesn't really help or hurt the project from a money standpoint - it's a break-even aspect of the program.

He promised to return with a plan for implementing the council's direction sometime in the next few months.

"There are no plans to build these until we have buyers," Crook added.

Councilman Steve Skadron was not present at the meeting.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 8, 2013 07:49AM Published Jan 8, 2013 01:29AM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.