Aspen moves to refine affordable housing reqs
The Aspen Times
In response to a study by a Boulder firm that suggests the city of Aspen’s affordable-housing mitigation requirements have been overstated, the Aspen City Council is working toward refining those requirements through policy changes to its land use code.
Community Development Director Chris Bendon presented a series of policy questions to the council Monday night so staff could get direction on how to draft the land-use code amendments.
Staff mainly sought direction on whether the city should provide a credit for real estate transfer taxes, whether the city should charge the full impact fee for residential development and whether the city should keep the pay-in-lieu option.
The study by Boulder-based RRC Associates suggests that 3,000 square feet of residential development generates a .445 full-time employee and not a whole full-time employee, the rate for which the city has based its affordable-housing mitigation standards since 1990.
Councilman Adam Frisch said he’s basing his decisions on whether fees collected, in whatever form, actually do the job of housing workers.
“If it’s not housing the workers at the right rate, then it’s a bad policy,” he said.
Developer Peter Fornell said credits for real estate transfer taxes should be a public discussion because the tax was voter-approved.
“I’m sensitive to the fact that a house is paying for mitigation more than one time,” he said. “It sounds like a public question — I think it’s worthy of conversation with a public answer.”
Developer and former council member Tim Semrau said the council isn’t being fair. Mitigation should apply to residential and commercial, not just residential, he said.
“I see the inconsistency here as being inappropriate,” he said.
City Manager Steve Barwick said in defense of the mitigation methods that there are simply chosen portions of the economy that are taxed for affordable housing.
“That’s the nature of it — you’re never going to be perfect in taxation. Ever,” he said.
Council members who were present supported staff recommendations to not reduce requirements based on the real estate transfer tax, charging the full impact fee and keeping cash-in-lieu, but the conversation is far from over. Councilwoman Ann Mullins was absent from the meeting.
Bendon will incorporate their feedback into the ordinance draft, which should reach second reading and public hearing in August.
The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.