Burlingame could see more lower-priced units | AspenTimes.com

Burlingame could see more lower-priced units

Abigail Eagye

After looking at the distribution of bids in the first Burlingame housing lottery, city officials have proposed adjusting the category mix to offer more lower-priced units.At a work session Monday, the Aspen City Council considered options for a redistribution.The city offered 31 units in the first lottery and garnered nearly 260 bids from 149 households (some households bid on more than one unit).Under the proposed changes, the number of units in categories 2 and 4 would roughly double to 14 and 16, respectively, while the Category 3 offering would remain the same at 17.The Burlingame lottery was the first in which the city offered the higher-priced categories 5-7. All together, the total of 12 units offered garnered only 26 bids, with Category 7 attracting interest from a meager two households for three available units.Seeing the Category 3 number remain static posed a problem for Councilwoman Rachel Richards. With 47 bids, two-bedroom Category 3 units attracted the second-highest number of bids.”That’s the one category we didn’t add anything to, and that’s the one category with [one of the] highest number of bids,” she said.Category 2 one-bedrooms attracted the highest number of applicants, 54.But number of bids isn’t the only gauge of interest, said Tom McCabe, executive director of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Office.”It’s a little bit of a misrepresentation of grander interests,” he said.Richards agreed, suggesting that the number of bids in each category was “a little bit of a mirror back to the categories we offered.”Richards also would like to see a bell curve of employee wages, combined with the types of jobs those workers hold. If the types of jobs that command a certain wage remain relatively constant, then the employee pool’s buying power in different categories should roughly follow that, she said, even if individuals move on to higher-paying jobs and appear to be able to spend more.”There are types of jobs that are never going to be in higher categories,” she said.Meanwhile, Councilman Torre pleaded for the council to reintroduce Category 1, which is missing from the first phase of Burlingame.The conversation took place in the midst of budget discussions for 2007. If the mixes shift along the proposed lines, it would decrease the housing fund’s revenue by roughly $2.8 million, increasing the total city subsidy of homes at Burlingame to nearly $16.6 million.The housing fund is in good shape, though, and can take the hit, said Assistant City Manager Bentley Henderson.”We wouldn’t have come through and recommended this adjustment if the housing fund were upside down,” he said.The primary source of revenue for the housing fund is the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax, with a portion of the city sales taxes coming in at a distant second.Even with the Burlingame subsidy, housing fund projections for the next 10 years look strong if revenue sources continue as predicted. But that’s only if the city doesn’t lay out a big chunk of money for another affordable housing project.”It assumes no significant major capital expenses, which I don’t think you can count on,” Henderson said.Monday’s work session was only the beginning of the category-mix discussion. Although Henderson anticipated the final numbers would be similar to the ones proposed, the council has not yet finalized the mix.In addition to proposing the changes to the mix, Henderson also suggested the council consider offering several “turnkey” homes, single-family homes the city would build on individual lots in the development. A number of applicants won a lottery for single-family lots in the first Burlingame offering. But staying under the city’s maximum home costs for affordable housing has been challenging for some of the new buyers as they build their own homes.”The city’s goal would be to try to find some economies of scale and cost regulating that would allow us to stay within our own regulations,” Henderson said of the turnkey idea.Councilman Jack Johnson supported the idea and further suggested the council consider offering a “white shell” option for people to finish themselves.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com