City crunches numbers for Burlingame housing | AspenTimes.com

City crunches numbers for Burlingame housing

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen can build 40 one-bedroom units of affordable housing next to the Aspen Airport Business Center and still have enough money to move forward on the first of 330 units at Burlingame Ranch.

That, at least, is what the City Council tentatively agreed Monday after wrangling over what to build where and how much it might cost.

The council has put what?s known as Burlingame Parcel D on the fast track, with the expectation that it can break ground on the project next spring.

Last night, the council agreed to build a mix of Category 2 and 3 sale housing on Parcel D, a 2.5-acre triangle of city-owned land next to the AABC. It is part of the larger Burlingame Ranch parcel.

The city had previously identified the site for inexpensive rental housing, but has switched its focus to sale housing primarily to reduce the government subsidy it will require. That will free up more money for what has been dubbed ?big Burlingame,? the 330-unit project slated for a separate site.

Councilman Terry Paulson urged the council to weigh the Parcel D project more heavily with the less expensive Category 2 units rather than a 50/50 split between Categories 2 and 3.

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?All those people you look at riding the bus here can?t afford Category 3?s,? he said. ?I just think it would be nice to provide for some of the lower-income people here.?

The council agreed to a 60/40 split between Category 2 and 3 units, which will require an estimated construction subsidy of $3.2 million ? the amount the city will pay for the project after the sale price of the units is recouped.

Currently, a Category 2 one-bedroom unit sells for a maximum of $84,600, while a Category 3 one-bedroom has a top-end price of $135,800.

Agreeing on a mix of housing at big Burlingame proved the tougher challenge.

Private consultants who prepared a strategic housing plan for the city suggested a mix for the project, but it required roughly $30 million in government subsidy.

Councilman Tim Semrau proposed a different mix for the council?s consideration that he calculated could be built with the estimated $16.7 million the city will have available in housing funds next year after it subsidizes the Parcel D project.

His financing scenario calls for a $12 million, 15-year loan to help build the infrastructure at Burlingame and the first 220 units of the project, leaving funds available for other future projects or land purchases. The government subsidy would total about $20 million.

?Here?s the bottom line ? if we like this mix of units, we can move forward and we can afford Burlingame,? Semrau said. ?This will work, give or take, and we?ll still have money for doing other projects.?

?You say, look at this and it works. Well I?m not sure whether it does or doesn?t,? said Mayor Helen Klanderud.

Semrau?s proposal includes 25 Category 1 units, 50 Category 2 units, 60 Category 3 units, 50 Category 4 units and the sale of 35 RO (resident occupied) lots.

?We can make that work. The key is, do you want it to work?? said City Manager Steve Barwick. ?If that?s the unit mix you want, we?ll make this work.?

Semrau?s proposed mix puts a little more weight on the higher-priced categories to bring the overall subsidy down, compared to the proposal prepared by the consultants, Barwick noted.

Klanderud, wondering if the mix would meet the community?s needs or was simply a way to make the numbers work, voiced concern that the city would build housing that had no interested takers.

?I don?t want a white elephant out there,? she said.

?This represents a pretty darn good mix,? countered Councilman Tom McCabe. ?This gets us moving. This gives us a frame of reference.?

The council directed staffers to crunch Semrau?s numbers to make sure they add up and to explore financing schemes for the $12 million in borrowed funds.

?I?m assuming, on the financing side, you?d prefer not to have another vote?? Barwick asked.

?Absolutely,? Councilman Tony Hershey responded.

Issuing municipal bonds, the standard mechanism for borrowing money, would require a vote of the electorate.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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