Worker housing sales hit $21.6 million | AspenTimes.com

Worker housing sales hit $21.6 million

Janet Urquhart

Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” While Aspen and Pitkin County’s stratospheric real estate market posted another record year with $2.69 billion in sales, the worker housing market fin­ished 2006 with $ 21.6 million in sales ” its highest mark in five years.

Unlike the free market, housing dedi­cated to the local work force sells at capped prices. Appreciation is limited, and the number of annual sales rise and fall based on the number of the coveted units that happen to come back on the market, along with any new units offered for sale.

Last year’s $21.6 million tally came from 107 sales, compared to $16.1 mil­lion from the sale of 105 units in 2005. A number of the 2006 sales were for higher-priced homes within the strata of worker housing.

The 2006 total includes $3.6 million from the sale of 14 new units at Little Ajax ( on West Hopkins Avenue at the base of Shadow Mountain), a private project the city of Aspen subsidized. Four three-bedroom, two-bath units there, priced at $199,000, each attracted 40 prospective buyers who competed in lottery for a chance to buy one of the condos. Another nine three-bedroom, two-bathroom condos in the complex, priced at $293,000, each attracted 29 lot­tery participants. The sole two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit sold to the complex manager for $266,000.

The year also reflected the first 20 sales of lots and homes at the city’s Burlingame Ranch on the outskirts of town. The sale of seven lots and 13 townhome-style residences, part of the first phase of the development, totaled $4 million. The lotteries for five $150,000 lots there each attracted 97 participants, while two lots priced at $119,400 each attracted 76 lottery bids.

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A one-bedroom, one-bath unit at Burlingame, priced at $92,000, saw 54 lot­tery participants, while a three-bedroom, two-bath unit priced at $456,000 attracted just two prospective bidders.

One-bedroom units continued to attract the most interest in general, as both individuals and couples are eligible to buy those condos. Under the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authori­ty’s guidelines, one occupant per bed­room is preferable, effectively shutting singles out of all but studios and one-­bedrooms.

One-bedroom units typically attract more applicants than almost anything else in the worker housing inventory, acknowledged Cindy Christensen, operations manager for the housing authority. The Burlingame lots and brand new units of all sizes may be the excep­tion that trumps demand for one-­bedrooms.

“We get single people and couples going for those units (one-bedrooms). We even get families going for those,” she said. “We get everybody under the sun going for those units.”

A one-bedroom, one-bath at Cen­tennial that came up for sale in 2006 for $109,498 attracted 63 interested buyers. A one-bedroom, one-bath loft at Centennial had 57 takers. The com­plex is in the city, and it allows dogs ” two big selling points even though Centennial is one of the resort’s older worker housing projects.

The housing authority’s 2006 sales tally doesn’t include sales of dedicated worker units at Aspen’s new Obermeyer Place and the ongo­ing sale of lots at the Woody Creek Trailer Park. Developers of Ober­meyer sold units there to qualified workers of their choosing, so the housing authority was not involved. Residents of the trailer park ” all local workers ” are now buying the lots beneath their homes directly from the homeowners association, which has taken over ownership of the park and has subdivided it.

Worker housing sales in 2007 could eclipse the banner year of 2001, when the housing authority recorded 155 sales for $25.1 million. The rest of the 97-unit Phase I at Burlingame Ranch is expected to be ready to sell.

Janet Urquhart’s e- mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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