Basalt eyes sweeping changes to its affordable housing regulations |

Basalt eyes sweeping changes to its affordable housing regulations

BASALT ” Basalt’s town government is planning such a drastic overhaul to its affordable housing guidelines that even the name will change.

As part of broad-sweeping update of growth management regulations, the town is considering increasing the amount of housing that developers of residential and commercial projects must provide to offset the jobs they create.

Basalt officials plan to change the name of the rules from “affordable housing guidelines” to “community housing guidelines.” The name change more accurately reflects what the regulations attempt to achieve, according to the government’s planners.

In a nutshell, the new rules replace the formula used to determine how much affordable housing developers must provide. The developer of a residential project currently must make a certain percentage of units affordable. A commercial developer must provide a certain amount of affordable housing based on square footage of development and the number of employees generated.

The new community housing proposal streamlines the formula and potentially toughens the requirements.

“The housing amendments are designed to deliver on council’s promise to generate more affordable housing in Basalt,” said Councilman Chris Seldin. “Basalt’s affordable housing mitigation rates are well out of date and significantly less stringent than those in neighboring jurisdictions like Eagle County, Pitkin County, and Aspen. After studying many different models, we decided to pattern our code after Eagle County’s.”

For residential development, the new baseline requirement would require that 35 percent of all square footage be affordable.

The percentage could be reduced to as low as 25 percent if developers make other concessions that would benefit the community housing program.

Developers of commercial projects would have lower mitigation requirements than residential developers because their projects generate public revenues through sales taxes ” thus, they do more to pay their way. The baseline requirement would be to provide community housing for 25 percent of all new employees. The requirement would be reduced to 12.5 percent of employees for projects that provide commercial spaces of 500 square feet or less in the downtown core. The hope is those spaces would be “affordable commercial” areas. Developers who deed-restrict small commercial spaces to community-serving uses would be exempt from housing requirements.

The council’s goal is to increase the requirement without snuffing development. Seldin said Eagle County’s regulations are an effective model because they have been “stress-tested” and have been proven to be effective without making new development economically unfeasible.

The town government will unveil its community housing regulations for developers and the public at-large at a public hearing Tuesday night. The Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the Town Council will discuss the proposed guidelines started at 6:45 p.m. in Town Hall.

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