Basalt council adopts plan to preserve affordable housing
Basalt took steps this week to try to make sure the upscalingand yuppification of the town doesn’t wipe out its affordablehousing stock. The Town Council unanimously approved new affordable housing guidelinesTuesday that have been evolving over the last year. “The Town recognizes that there is a growing gap between housingcosts and wages in Basalt,” said the ordinance that outlines thenew regulations. “The [Council] has determined that it needs todevelop and maintain an affordable housing program.” In a nutshell, the new rules will require developers of residentialprojects to devote 20 percent of new dwelling units and 15 percentof all bedrooms to affordable housing. Developers of commercial property must undertake a study to seehow many employees their projects will generate, then provideaffordable housing for 20 percent. They must also pay a fee of50 cents per square foot of maximum allowable space to help thetown offset affordable housing needs. The Town Council has debated and chipped away at the affordablehousing ordinance for so long that it was finally passed withlittle fanfare.Not just second homes Most of the discussion centered around town attorney Jody Edwards’reciting the town’s findings for the need for affordable housingregulations. “Because of the very desirable character of the area and the tourist-orientednature of the area, there is a high demand for housing, includingsecond homes,” Edwards read from the ordinance. “As a result of the high demand for housing, there has been asignificant increase in the cost of housing in Basalt in recentyears.” As evidence, the ordinance noted: The average price of a single-family residence in Basalt increased90 percent from 1990 to 1996 while the average income in EagleCounty, including Basalt, increased only 20 percent over thatsame period. A community profile survey performed for Basalt showed that 36percent of the population came from households with incomes ofless than $50,000 annually. 83 percent of the population of the broader Basalt planning areawants the town to play some role in providing affordable housing.Home ownership high The survey also found that a healthy share, 88 percent, of theresidents in the Basalt area own their homes. The Town Council’sordinance identified keeping that high level of ownership – andthe town’s character – a high-priority goal. All the evidence provides “a legitimate basis for requiring that30 percent of all new residential development be Affordable Housing,”the ordinance wording said. “However, the Board of Trustees haselected to err on the side of caution so as to not place on anyresidential developer a burden exceeding the impacts of that developmentand to require only 20 percent of the new residential developmentto be Affordable Housing.” Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens noted that adjustments might be requiredto the ordinance due to unexpected circumstances that pop up.Town Manager Tom Baker agreed, but said that shouldn’t preventthe board from getting the ordinance on the books, then makingadjustments as needed. “There are going to be unintended consequences to all these ordinances,”Baker said, referring to a general overhaul the town is undertakingon its code. “We’re on the cutting edge of this legislation.”
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