The Aspen City Council agreed Monday to fund a three to six month, $25,000 to $35,000 study that will look at affordable-housing mitigation requirements for residential projects.
Mitigation options for single-family and duplex-home projects include providing an off-site affordable unit payment of a cash-in-lieu fee, providing an affordable-housing certificate or building an accessory-dwelling unit on the property. In a memorandum to the council, city staff states that the current fee-in-lieu mitigation rates are unrealistically low. The fee is calculated by multiplying the additional square footage of the development by the number of full-time-equivalent employees the project generates. At $76 per square foot, council member Adam Frisch said the mitigation fee doesn’t allow the city to build much in Aspen. He estimated that the number needs to be closer to $500 per square foot.
“Every day that goes by, we’re taking in substantially less than we should be,” Community Development Director Chris Bendon said.
Bendon presented the council with two options for the study, the second being a bare-bones approach in the $12,000 to $15,000 range.
“Given the importance of the study being able to withstand public scrutiny and potential court scrutiny, staff believes the extra cost for high-quality work is justified,” a memorandum to the council states.
The council unanimously approved the more expensive study at Monday’s work session.
The council also discussed eliminating the city’s accessory-dwelling unit option for mitigation. There are approximately 150 to 200 accessory-dwelling units in Aspen, most of which were built as a result of mitigation requirements. Occupancy of those units is estimated between 20 and 30 percent, much lower than is desired by many. The accessory-dwelling units typically are occupied by a property manager for when the home owner is away and can’t look after the property. Frisch attributed their low occupancy to improvements in technology and alarm systems that do the job of a hired hand. Bendon said they still serve a purpose for some in the West End, but with such a low occupancy rate, it doesn’t hold much value as far as mitigation is concerned.