Aspen City Council candidates offer views on affordable housing alternatives
Other than building new inventory, some office seekers provide alternatives
Editor’s note: The Aspen Times has posed five questions of each of the eight Aspen City Council candidates running for two open seats in the March 2 election. Monday’s question was how candidates could improve an average citizen’s quality of life, and why they are running for public office. Tuesday focused on local COVID-19 public health orders. On Wednesday, candidates answered the question of whether the city should be financially assisting local businesses during the pandemic. Thursday focused on priorities. Today’s final question hits on affordable housing. To see all of the answers and bios on the candidates, go to aspentimes.com/election.
Day 5 question: What other methods are there to achieve more affordable housing other than building new housing?
Regional partnership is the main method to achieve more affordable housing other than building new housing ourselves. However, we do have projects here that need to be built as the city’s “Affordable housing is essential to the economic and social health and sustainability of the city of Aspen.”
The density at the lumberyard needs to be settled and we need to work with our regional elected partners on exploring housing solutions from Aspen to Parachute.
Affordable housing needs to be strategically placed so that it is along public transportation routes and is built in areas that don’t interfere with our open space.
APCHA and the business community also need to be worked with on exploring housing solutions. It is better to solve a problem if we consult with the business owners and employees that struggle with affordable housing issues everyday.
We also need to build more category 1 and 2 housing ownership opportunities to create access to Aspen for those in need.
Ultimately, the entire community needs a voice in shaping employee housing for the current and future generations. Complicated problems like this do not have simple solutions but if we work with each other, we will find something that works to make Aspen’s housing sustainable.
More housing is only part of the solution. If we restrain the growth of job generating development or make it provide housing for its workforce, we will have less need to build more. Onsite housing for development is an important step as is seeking partnership with parties interested in developing housing. The land-use code often exempts too many developments from mitigation housing.
This town is quickly becoming a community of second homes. If we can’t offer housing solutions for the people who actually work here and make up the heart and soul of this place, then we are destined to lose what I fell in love with here 15 years ago.
Obviously building more “affordable housing” is a quick and easy answer. The harder answer is to figure out a way to better utilize current residences.
This is not an easy task and I am not disillusioned that there is some good sounding answer I can put down to help get me elected.
This is something that needs conversation with experts, in planning, development and frankly, the community.
Building more affordable housing is a no brainer. I struggle with the current situation though. I watched friends be forced to move out of Park Circle almost two years ago now, only to watch it sit vacant because the cost of development has exceeded the budget that comes with the FTE (affordable housing credit) program.
I want to see developers and new construction projects be held to a much higher/stricter standard when it comes to their contribution to building and supporting affordable housing.
The ADU program was a good idea back in the day; however it was never enforced and many new homeowners did not actually have to contribute to our housing pool.
Peter Fornell has done a great job with so many developments and I would like to see the city make it more feasible for that to continue.
Too much power lies with the developers and their finances for them not to be held accountable anymore.
We need to first redefine APCHA and its intent, then compare that to what we currently have. Then, and only then, can we get back on track, and do so fairly, without having a negative impact on any current APCHA participants.
Find ways to incentivize movement through the system and even out of the system for those who have done better and are ready.
I am one of those people who has benefited greatly from APCHA. It’s time to move up or move on and open up current units for the next ones in need.
I have several incentive programs that may raise eyebrows for some. One in particular includes being grand fathered into the school district if you leave APCHA but stay within the region. That would do it for me.
Let’s help people feel good about taking off the “golden handcuffs” and make the system work better for our future generations.
Keeping existing deed restrictions on units preserves housing. When these restrictions expire units go away replacements must be created. There are 324 rental and 170 ownership units that have deed restrictions that are expiring. Much attention is given to new units and little to existing ones.
The council put substantial efforts into preserving the deed restrictions on 148 Centennial rental units in 2019. The city attempted to purchase these deed restrictions for $10 million. The deal went south at the 11th hour. An option exists for free-market units to be bought down to create units with deed restrictions in perpetuity. This is in a way a reverse mortgage for an owner to cash out in exchange for the future deed restrictions.
There have been some HPC projects that create affordable housing units while preserving historic assets. This is a form of infill and sometimes does require building, but not at the expense of the city. The housing credit program also creates affordable housing without public funding.
Short-term rentals have removed affordable housing from the private sector pool. Some communities have banned STRs completely or in certain zones. Maintaining old units extends their use.
I would look into current ADUs in town as the first option. This would give us access to a lot of “hidden” inventory. It will take incentives but it’s an option with a lot of potential.
I would also check into our current APCHA inventory to make sure it stays in our inventory. For example, the Castle Ridge housing could possibly go to free market sooner than we might realize because the agreement they have with APCHA might be coming to an end. We can’t lose inventory.
I have experienced the housing crunch from both ends: having lived down valley with a daily 2-hour commute, to now, fortunately, raising a family out of our APCHA unit. We cannot build our way out of the problem, there is no one-shot solution, and I’m dedicated to carrying out a mix of creative options that don’t include new development. I have assembled a citizen taskforce to tackle these new approaches.
I will first demonstrate courage by aligning council with community vision and set an actual measurable goal for units to deliver to meet our housing needs.
We need to optimize our current inventory. This is fiscally responsible and immediately actionable. Affordable housing owners and renters who are motivated to free up or rent unoccupied bedrooms should be rewarded by incentives. Residents should be able to trade up or down within the system as their needs change. We need to create efficiency within the program and continue to enforce the guidelines to limit abuse.
Converting free-market units to deed-restricted should be explored. We can craft incentives, such as down payment assistance, for motivated locals and employers to buy a free-market unit in exchange for placing a deed-restriction on the property. That means no new growth, and it is less expensive per bedroom delivered. In this same area, tax credits can be implemented as incentives for property owners.
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First-term Aspen Mayor Torre sailed to re-election victory Tuesday with a sound disposal of his sole opponent, Lee Mulcahy, by a 2,039-177 margin, according to unofficial results from the City Clerk’s Office.