Burlingame attracts all manner of buyers | AspenTimes.com

Burlingame attracts all manner of buyers

Janet Urquhart

The first homes at Burlingame Ranch will house plenty of workers and families who are no stranger to the local employee housing program. But the project has attracted buyers who were willing to cash in their free-market home in the valley, as well.Thirty-one townhome-style units will be ready for occupancy before the year’s end; in addition, buyers have been chosen for seven lots at the development, now under construction on the outskirts of town.The first Burlingame buyers will come from up and down the valley, and from current housing situations that run the gamut – most already own or rent other units within the Aspen/Pitkin County employee housing program, while others are renting on the free market, or own a residence on the free market, including an Aspen condo owner.All have qualified as full-time Pitkin County employees and can’t exceed the program’s established income/asset caps.The need for Burlingame was a matter of debate, as the controversial housing project was put before Aspen voters twice, with its opponents questioning the need to construct housing for people who have already secured units within the local worker housing program. The prospect of housing individuals who have already managed to secure a free-market home – letting them cash in on a place in Basalt for what might be a less expensive unit at Burlingame, for example – also rankled detractors.But from Housing Director Tom McCabe’s point of view, the community’s worker housing is meant to house its workers – no matter what their occupation or current living arrangement. The community’s long-stated goal is to house 60 percent of the workforce in or near Aspen, he noted. If that means accommodating a local worker who is willing to trade in a free-market condo for a Burlingame residence with far lower appreciation potential, McCabe has no qualms about it.”I don’t know that it’s a bad thing,” he said. “They might not have another opportunity on the free market that allows their family to grow.”Keeping families in the community was a big selling point among Burlingame’s proponents, and the project is apparently giving some locals a shot at a bigger home for their growing brood.For Chad Jenkins and Mary Wolfer, who’ve won a chance to buy a lot, Burlingame represents a place to build a home for a family of six. They already own a deed-restricted unit, but with four children, their dining area now functions as a bedroom, Jenkins said.Derek and Jennifer Brown own a worker unit at Centennial, where their family of five currently resides in a two-bedroom condo.”We love it here, but it’s too small,” Jennifer said.Pam Gabel, on the other hand, has won a lottery for a one-bedroom unit at Burlingame, after living in a variety of rental situations up and down the valley. She has been working in Pitkin County for more than 20 years and has tried repeatedly to win a housing lottery and the chance at home ownership. Burlingame is her first win – finally. It means she can quit commuting from Glenwood Springs, where she has been living for about eight years.Among the 26 confirmed buyers of townhome units, four already own an employee unit, nine rent employee housing, two own free-market units and four rent on the free market. Information on the other six was unavailable from the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority.In all, there were 149 bidders in the first lottery for Burlingame units, including 26 who own employee housing, 62 who rent worker units, 11 who own free-market residences and 26 who rent on the free market, along with 24 bidders whose current living arrangement wasn’t tallied by the housing office.Among the 97 bidders for lots, 24 owned free-market residences and 18 owned deed-restricted units.With opportunities to jump from employee housing to the free market becoming increasingly rare, Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud said she is neither surprised nor concerned that Burlingame will house a number of people who already reside in worker housing. “When they move from a deed-restricted unit, that unit becomes available to someone else,” she said.In the case of the Browns’ Centennial condo, a single parent with children is poised to move in, Jennifer confirmed.Nor does Klanderud mind seeing downvalley residents move upvalley to Burlingame – a reversal of the downvalley migration of Pitkin County workers.The whole point, she said, is to allow people to live where they work.The 31 units that will soon be finished at Burlingame are part of a 97-unit first phase, including the lots. The housing project has the potential for 236 homes.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com