Affordable housing project in Basalt earns national recognition for innovation

Habitat for Humanity honors Basalt Vista net-zero townhomes

The third phase of construction is underway in the Basalt Vista neighborhood behind Basalt High School on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The Basalt Vista affordable housing project won a prestigious national award from Habitat for Humanity International.

The 27-unit, net-zero project was selected the best among 100 applicants in the “Best Multi-family Home Design” competition. The award was voted on by peers in Habitat for Humanity and 13 outside partner organizations.

The Basalt Vista affordable townhouse project was headed by Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork. Partners included the Roaring Fork School District, which contributed the land; Pitkin County, which helped pay for infrastructure; and the town of Basalt, which provided financial help to reduce fees. Holy Cross Energy and the Community Office for Resource Efficiency helped create the net zero project, which produces as much energy as its consumes through efficiency and solar photovoltaic systems on the homes.

The project is located behind or south of Basalt High School. The last of the 27 residences will be finished this month.

“Basalt Vista has proven that we can combine energy efficiency with all electric utilities and affordable homeownership, while blending in with the high quality housing standards of our valley,” Habitat for Humanity RFV President Gail Schwartz said in a statement. “We were only able to accomplish Basalt Vista with the support of our partners here in the valley, including governmental entities and the energy conservation community. I like to say that we broke the glass ceiling on energy efficient, affordable housing. We are proud to provide the template for the affordable housing community going forward.”

The recognition was awarded last month at the annual Habitat for Humanity International Affiliate Conference in Atlanta.

Basalt Vista is notable for being net zero and for providing relief for some teachers and other working class families from exorbitant housing prices. The 27 units were constructed in a mix of duplexes and triplexes.

“Each of these homes generates more energy than they use, resulting in utility bills that are significantly less than comparable homes,” Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley said in a statement. “Most homeowners are paying as little as $14 a month for their utility bill, which is approximately the connection fee to Holy Cross Energy.”

The local chapter of the international housing nonprofit organization was founded in 1999. It has provided housing for more than 200 people in the Roaring Fork and lower Colorado River valleys.

Basalt Vista is the most ambitious project the chapter has pursued so far. The application for the award spelled out the unique nature of the project.

“Basalt Vista is a multifamily development but it doesn’t look or feel like what most people think a multifamily project would be,” the application said. “In the resort mountain area where Basalt is located, ski-in/ski-out condos sell for millions and affordable housing is in short supply. The prevailing method of providing affordable, or employee, housing is to build as many small units on a lot as are possible, build them cheaply, and rent them to seasonal workers. This model works for short-term housing and may allow employers to recruit employees, but it is not conducive to retaining those employees. For people who want to remain in the community and raise their families here, they want a little more.”


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