Carbondale asked to relax affordable housing rules

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Carbondale trustees aren’t in any hurry to give a temporary waiver to the town’s affordable housing requirements, as requested by the area Realtors’ association.

“I asked if anyone wanted to discuss it, and didn’t get much response,” Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot said, reacting to a letter from the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors that was included in the Town Board’s Tuesday night meeting packet.

“I don’t know if that might change in the future, but there was no motion to put it on a future agenda,” she said.

The matter was not scheduled for discussion at the Tuesday meeting, rather only for information purposes, she said.

The proposal is similar to what is currently being discussed by the Glenwood Springs City Council.

The Glenwood council has begun reviewing the city’s requirement that 15 percent of all new residential units be deed-restricted and marketed toward certain income categories at below-market prices. A moratorium for a period of two or three years has been suggested as a way to stimulate new construction activity and create jobs.

Like Glenwood Springs, Carbondale also has what’s called a 15 percent “inclusionary” housing requirement designed to create deed-restricted affordable housing in the community.

The Realtors’ association, which represents real estate agents throughout Garfield County, suggests that Carbondale consider an “immediate waiver” of its requirements.

“As an organization at the heart of real estate, we feel we have a responsibility to voice our strong concern for the continuing deterioration of the housing market in our area,” reads the letter, signed by Association Chair Debbie Sanderson, who is a real estate agent in New Castle.

“While clearing large inventories of distressed properties will be necessary to return to normalcy, we also feel that there may be opportunities to fill housing needs that go unexplored, even in the current and very challenging market,” the letter states.

“It is therefore time to consider measures that will enable home builders to explore these possibilities for new construction, thereby adding an additional ingredient in helping the real estate market return to stable, healthy and reasonable growth as soon as possible.”

Such a “waiver” would not need to be permanent, the association suggests, “but should be of sufficient duration … to provide enough time for those parties that are able to develop housing proposals to where-with-all to do so,” the letter reads.

Projects already approved but unbuilt could also be modified by removing the affordable housing requirement and allow for construction to begin, the letter also suggests.

Bernot said that, if the proposal were to be considered, the town would likely want to invite representatives from Mountain Regional Housing Corp., which administers the town’s deed-restricted housing program, to weigh in on the discussion.

In Glenwood, some council members have been supportive of relaxing the housing requirements, but others are not so sure it’s a good idea.

“I’m not convinced that our regulations have kept development out of Glenwood Springs,” Councilman Leo McKinney said at a June 2 work session to discuss the proposed moratorium.

City staff was directed at that meeting to prepare a formal proposal for consideration sometime later this summer.