Carbondale weighs future artistic housing projects
Carbondale is looking for ideas and proposals to develop affordable housing and work spaces for artists and people in creative fields.
A yearslong partnership with Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer that builds living and working spaces for artists, has produced a market survey and a feasibility study that shows what local artists might want in the way of live-work units and what the area market might support.
But, it’s unclear where the effort to achieve affordable housing for creative people who contribute to the Roaring Fork Valley culturally and economically will go from here.
“We figured if we got this far, hopefully new opportunities would present themselves,” Amy Kimberly, executive director of Carbondale Arts, said in an interview.
The Artspace report shows there is a demand for as many as 42 affordable artistic housing units in Carbondale, 11 studio rental units (26 studio spaces if live/work space isn’t built) and shared creative space. The survey received 342 responses.
The effort could continue with Artspace as the lead consultant on the project, or it could be a project developed with existing real estate projects. Or, it could be a series of smaller housing developments.
“We’re happy that this process is bringing forward information that can be used,” Kimberly said. “Ideally, we’re looking for partners that might help move a specific project forward in Carbondale. There’s nothing obvious out there yet.”
Artspace has assisted developments across the country with creative living and working spaces available to rent in Loveland and, soon, in Trinidad, as well as projects in development in Ridgway.
One important point that came out of the survey was the income of people who expressed a need for affordable housing. Artspace typically receives around 60 percent of funding from Low-Income Housing Tax Credit funds, which are only available to those who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income.
In Garfield County, that would mean individuals who make more than $29,580, and households of four who have an income of more than $42,240, would be ineligible for the housing. According to the survey, only 32 percent of respondents interested in the housing qualify for the LIHTC.
“We are wary of that model,” Kimberly said. The greater need is for people who make just above the cut-off line – those who make between $30,000 and $45,000 and still struggle finding affordable housing in the area, Kimberly said.
Moving away from a LIHTC restriction model would open opportunities to help more people, but creates challenges, particularly in project funding.
“We think a philanthropic model is probably what we’re going to be looking more (toward) than a tax credit model,” Kimberly said.
Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington said the survey data indicates a tax credit model of eligibility won’t work, but there will be challenges in making the revenue work.
“We’re going to have to create a new model,” Harrington said. “There obviously seems to be community interest, demand and need, so we’ll see how to bridge that gap.”
The town will have to work with the Department of Local Affairs to come up with an alternative funding and eligibility model, Harrington said.
Carbondale Arts has a fairly broad definition of artists who might be eligible for discounted housing.
Kimberly uses the term “creative” to define who she’s trying to help. That includes designers of anything — engines, solar panels, etc. — as well as chefs and distillers and traditional artists. It could also include someone who has a day job, but pursues artistic creation on the side.
“The approach is far more inclusive than exclusive,” Kimberly said.
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