Basalt council, developer negotiate deal for housing for the ‘missing middle’ |

Basalt council, developer negotiate deal for housing for the ‘missing middle’

23 units will eventually be offered at between $484,500 and $1 million in today’s prices

Developer Michael Lipkin has altered his project to include 109 free market units and 46 affordable housing units. The project is between Willits Lane and Willits Lake.
Courtesy image

The Basalt Town Council struck a deal with a developer Tuesday night that will eventually result in 23 affordable housing units being offered for sale between $484,526 and $1 million in today’s dollars.

Developer Michael Lipkin sold the board on his proposal to provide housing for the “missing middle” — people who make too much money to qualify for typical price-capped housing but not enough to compete in the free market.

“We’ve really focused on the lower end of the missing middle,” Lipkin said.

Lipkin is working on the final phase of residential development in Willits with a project technically called parcel 5 of the Sopris Meadows subdivision. It will include 109 free-market units. His team is also proposing 46 affordable housing units, roughly double what is required in the town code.

The development is eyed on 12 acres between Willits Lake and Willits Lane, near the same developer’s Park Modern project.

Under Lipkin’s proposal, 23 affordable units in one building would be offered for sale. Negotiations at a later date will determine whether the other 23 units will be for sale or rental and at what prices.

A dirt road leads back to where Michael Lipkin is proposing 109 free market housing units and 46 affordable units in Sopris Meadows. The project is the last phase in the Willits residential neighborhood.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

In a meeting in May, Lipkin proposed building 46 rental apartments. The council asked him to consider revising the plan to offer some for sale.

“This is a remarkably responsive amendment to the plan,” Basalt Mayor Bill Kane said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Most of Basalt’s affordable housing inventory is directed at households earning below the area median income. Category one is for households at 60% to 80% of AMI; category two is for households at 81% to 100% of AMI; and category three targets households at 101% to 120% of AMI. The average median income is regularly updated.

Lipkin pitched the idea that Basalt needs to diversify its inventory with the goal of preserving the middle class.

“We just need to start learning what we’re going to have to do not to be Aspenized down here and lose our middle class,” he said.

Among the for-sale units, he proposed nine units at 120% of AMI, nine at 150%, three at 200% and two at 250%. The sales prices, in today’s dollars, would be $484,526 at the low end, $605,789 at 150% percent of AMI, $807,579 at 200% AMI and $1,009,579 at 250% AMI.

A “reasonable” price appreciation must be determined, Lipkin said.

In addition, he wants to give highest priority to buyers who work with existing arts organizations in Basalt. The next highest priority would be for health care workers in senior services and finally for employees of locally owned small business in Basalt with up to 30 employees.

The proposed sales prices, which will go up with time, brought mixed reactions from council members.

Councilwoman Elyse Hottel said she thought the upper levels of what Lipkin proposed were too steep of price. She wanted more units in the 120% and 150% of AMI range.

Councilman Glenn Drummond said he appreciated Lipkin’s willingness to change the plan to offer some of the units for sale.

“I think what you’re proposing is, I know it sounds crazy, pretty acceptable as far as affordable housing goes in the town of Basalt,” Drummond said. “I know five years ago this wouldn’t be affordable housing but in today’s market, it is.”

The council and a citizen committee called Basalt Affordable Community Housing will meet later this summer to discuss the mix of the other 23 affordable housing units in Lipkin’s project. A final plan for those units will be made before the final plat is issued for the project.

None of the units will be completed anytime soon. Lipkin said it would take at least a decade to build out the project, particularly with labor and materials shortages. His intent would be to include some of the affordable units early in the process.

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