Basalt council: Thanks for the affordable housing but make some of it for sale |

Basalt council: Thanks for the affordable housing but make some of it for sale

Developer proposes double the required amount of deed-restricted unit but wants to rent half to ‘missing middle’

Michael Lipkin is proposing 155 units in the last phase of Willits. The plan includes 109 free-market and 46 affordable-housing units.
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A developer’s proposal to build twice as much affordable housing as required by the Basalt land-use code comes with a catch that the Town Council indicated Tuesday night it might not accept.

Developer Michael Lipkin has proposed to build 46 affordable-housing rental units along with 109 free-market units in the last phase of the Willits residential project. Basalt’s code only requires him to build 21 affordable housing units.

Lipkin told the council he wants to build 23 affordable rental units that would comply with the town’s category 2 guidelines, which means they could be rented to households with an income at 81% to 100% of the Area Median Income.

He wants to rent the other 23 units at 250% to 300% of the AMI, or to households making roughly $250,000 to $300,000, according to Basalt assistant planning director James Lindt.

Lipkin phrased it as the “missing middle concept.” He noted that only two free-market homes in Basalt and Carbondale are currently listed under $1 million. Aspen businesses are snatching up residences that go on the market as a way to house their employees, he said. Meanwhile, even doctors theoretically cannot afford to move to the community, Lipkin said. Basalt is heading down Aspen’s road where no working person can afford to live there, he continued.

“It’s time Basalt just needs to ask (if) it’s going in a direction that nobody wants,” Lipkin said.

He later told the council, “People like you won’t be able to move to Basalt anymore, and that’s problematic.”

His proposal to build housing with increased income caps allows people in higher income levels to stay, he claimed.

The high household income levels proposed by Lipkin for half his affordable-housing stock didn’t garner much discussion. Instead, council members centered in on the need for ownership opportunities rather than more rental apartments. Mayor Bill Kane led the charge.

“I would like to challenge you on the ownership housing question,” Kane said.

He said there have been 266 affordable-housing units constructed or approved in Basalt in about three years.

“Our problem is, rental is 266, ownership is 0,” Kane said. “A little piece of the rock and the opportunity to own is critical.”

The assessment was slightly off. The Basalt Vista project headed by Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork, completed this week, provides 27 ownership units.

Kane challenged Lipkin to come up with “creative” ways to make ownership options work.

Lipkin countered that Colorado’s construction defect laws create too much liability for developers. That’s why so many rental units are proposed rather than ownership units, he said.

Kane responded that buyers’ waivers could be used to indemnify the developer and make construction of ownership units feasible.

The ownership-rental issue wasn’t resolved in Tuesday night’s introductory meeting. The proposal will come back before the council June 14.

Meanwhile, the Basalt Affordable Community Housing advisory committee is scheduled to review Lipkin’s missing middle rental concept Thursday and make a recommendation to the council.

Kane said it is simply a case of the developer and the council looking out for their best interests.

“You have a pro forma. We have to look out for the pro forma for the community,” Kane said.