Affordable rental housing is top concern in city survey
As Aspen’s workforce struggles to find affordable housing in town, the Aspen City Council continues to ponder potential solutions for the growing problem.
In 2012, Aspen city staff conducted a study that looked at the effects of job growth, neighborhood gentrification and retirement, according to a memo to the council from affordable housing project manager Chris Everson.
The study revealed that from 2012 to 2022, 657 new affordable workforce housing units are needed within the urban-growth boundary.
Since 2012, approximately 100 affordable for-sale units have been created and occupied, the memo said.
In January of this year, the council directed staff to seek community input on future affordable-housing development alternatives, with narrowed choices of what to develop and where. These choices should include primarily long-term rental and secondarily seasonal rental at city-owned properties at 517 Park Circle, 802 West Main Street and 488 Castle Creek Drive, the memo said. Staff is expected to return to council in November with a request for proposals and criteria that will help the council determine appropriate housing categories and lot densities for those properties, Mayor Steve Skadron said after Tuesday night’s work session.
In an effort to gain feedback from the community, city staff organized four community outreach events this year — June 11, July 8, Aug. 6 and Aug. 27 — and received more than 900 comments from about 125 participants.
The comment most received during staff’s outreach indicated a community-wide feeling that there is a significant need for affordable rental housing for Aspen’s active workforce and retirees, the memo said.
While staff’s outreach results revealed that accommodations for the “workforce only” category received more support than any other, the memo noted an increasing voice in the community pointing to a need for more senior housing for Aspen’s aging population.
Assistant City Manager Barry Crook pointed out in Tuesday’s work session that Pitkin County — not the city of Aspen — deals with senior-housing efforts.
“The city focuses on workforce, which includes the ability to retire into,” Crook said.
According to the memo, the workforce housing was tasked to the city and senior housing efforts were assigned to Pitkin County during a 2012 joint city-county housing work session.
Despite this, Skadron said he wants to make sure “the shoulders upon which community was built aren’t disregarded for every newcomer that comes to town that wants to work here.”
Skadron said he supports every senior being part of this discussion.
In response to the mayor’s concern of senior housing, Councilman Adam Frisch said “it may be a good time to check with Pitkin about this.”
“We’re in the senior-housing system just by demographics,” Frisch joked.
Another demographic discussed during the work session was Aspen’s younger generation, which also accounts for much of the “workforce only” category.
NextGen, which represents Aspen’s 18- to-40-year-old age demographic, conducted four, one-hour research sessions with 46 participants in an effort to get feedback on housing.
According to NextGen, respondents reported “housing” as the No. 1 factor preventing them from being able to live in Aspen long-term, despite a desire to do so.
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