Basalt to sell condos to ease housing woes
Basalt is proving to be open-minded when it comes to dealing with the midvalley’s affordable housing crisis.
The town government has decided it will sell condominiums in its first major affordable housing project to any full-time employee working between Old Snowmass and Carbondale rather than just workers inside its borders.
And to assure the successful sale of the project, it is easing key rules and regulations that govern sales of affordable housing.
The town has teamed with Ute Center developer Robert Ritchie to provide eight one- and two-bedroom condominiums along the banks of the Roaring Fork River. The affordable housing project is called Riverside Plaza.
Ritchie constructed the units at cost. The town is responsible for finding qualified buyers, handling the sales and making sure future transactions comply with housing guidelines.
The project is significant, said Basalt administrator Tom Baker, because “it’s the beginning of our affordable housing program.”
The condos are being offered at a higher price than Baker would prefer. The project was negotiated between the Town Council and Ritchie before the housing guidelines and regulations were in place.
Therefore, sales prices are higher than what will be allowed for the targeted income categories in the future. To make the higher-priced units easier to sell, the town removed income and asset restrictions for buyers. The buyers must only meet residency and employment requirements.
Full-time employees working between Old Snowmass and Carbondale will get the first shot at sales. Basalt employers will get the next highest priority. If they still aren’t sold, sales will be opened to any midvalley employer.
Units must be occupied by the employee who buys them or a worker of the employer who buys them. There are no market rentals.
Baker, former head of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, acknowledged that selling to employers can be controversial. The knock, he said, is it gives bosses extra leverage when they control housing.
Typically Basalt’s affordable housing projects will be offered only to employees. The Riverside Plaza is different because it was privately built as a mitigation step agreed to by the town and developer.
Baker said he hopes the units are bought by employees and employer eligibility doesn’t become an issue.
The one-bedroom units will sell for between $149,844 and $161,844. The two-bedroom units are for sale for between $201,844 and $213,844.
There is a 3 percent annual appreciation cap. Buyers must work an average of 35 hours per week for 10 months of the year or 32 hours per week for 11 months. The units must be occupied at least nine months of the year.
Mortgage loans with a down payment of only 3 to 5 percent are available to buyers with good credit.
Town officials hope the easing of restrictions will spur an easier sale than the only other affordable housing unit offered through the government.
“We had a hard time with the Southside unit,” said Baker. “We had people that wanted to buy it but they couldn’t qualify for the loan.”
The town “bought down” the sale price of that unit by providing a subsidy. The sale price was reduced from $127,000 to $107,000, then the unit sold.
The Riverside Plaza units will be unveiled in an open house Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Another open house is scheduled Feb. 14.
For directions or further information, call Kay Philip at Town Hall at 927-4701.
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