Habit for Humanity eyes Aspen site
February 7, 2014
Aspen is best known for its opulent mansions and family retreats, but now it might get its first Habitat for Humanity housing for low-income families.
The nonprofit organization's Roaring Fork Valley chapter is investigating an opportunity to team with the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority on a project, according to the leaders of both organizations.
"This is historic," said Scott Gilbert, president of Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley. "I never thought I'd use the words 'Habitat for Humanity' and 'Aspen' in the same sentence."
The organization has built several residences in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs and throughout the lower Colorado River Valley but never farther upvalley than Emma. Gilbert was quick to note that the organization has many supporters in Aspen — from cash donors to people and hotels that donate furnishings when they remodel.
“I never thought I’d use the words Habitat for Humanity and Aspen in the same sentence.”
President, Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley
The opportunity to build in Aspen arose when Housing Authority Executive Director Tom McCabe invited Gilbert to investigate a project. The Housing Authority owns a site with a funky A-frame at 1230 E. Copper Ave. in Aspen. It can provide the land for housing. Habitat can construct the residences as well as provide financing for buyers.
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Gilbert's analysis of the site concluded that Habitat could build a duplex with three bedrooms in each unit.
"The idea has been really well received by the board," McCabe said, referring to the Housing Authority's board of directors. The Housing Authority has limited funds to devote to a project, but it has wanted to use the land to provide affordable housing.
"It's pretty much in the infancy stage, but everybody is excited about it," McCabe said.
Attorneys for the Housing Authority and Habitat For Humanity are working on a nonbinding predevelopment agreement that would spell out each side's responsibilities.
McCabe wouldn't hazard a guess on the timing of groundbreaking. He said issues inevitably would arise later in the planning and approval process. The project must be approved by the city of Aspen.
The project could be historic on a second front. Habitat and the Housing Authority want to sell the units to families in the lowest income category. They would seek applicants making between $25,000 and $57,000 per year for the entire household, Gilbert said. Families living in Aspen would be preferred. Habitat finances the loans so that banks aren't involved in the selection process. Gilbert said families are selected that are willing to participate in the construction process and would be responsible owners.
McCabe said a three-bedroom unit that is sold to applicants in the lowest income category "is a new animal" for the affordable-housing program. Neither the city of Aspen nor Pitkin County has built any units in the lowest income category itself. A handful was built as affordable-housing mitigation, he said.
"This addresses an issue we've never been able to get at," McCabe said.
There is no timetable for when the proposal will be ready for the city's review.