City getting last piece of the housing puzzle
ASPEN City officials in the past two months have spent more than $13 million on property to build affordable housing.The latest acquisition is expected to be approved by the City Council on Monday – a $3.7 million property at 802 W. Main St., just a few doors down from the Hickory House. The 9,000-square-foot property, which has a 43-year-old house on it, is owned by an LLC that bought it a year ago for $2.1 million, according to Pitkin County assessor’s records.The other two properties – 488 Castle Creek Road and 517 Park Circle – were purchased by City Hall for a combined $9.5 million in May and June, respectively. Money used for all three properties was taken from the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority fund. The housing expected to be built will be open to all residents who meet the housing authority’s requirements.City officials hoped to partner with the Aspen School District on the Main Street property but discussions halted after school officials said one of their advisory boards didn’t feel they were in a position to move forward with the acquisition, according to a memo to the City Council from Assistant Manager Bentley Henderson.Because real estate values continue to rise, city officials believe this might be the last, best chance to buy property in town at a relatively affordable price. The City Council might elect to continue looking for a development partner for the 802 West Main parcel, Henderson said.It is the last piece of the puzzle for city officials, who have been in negotiations for several months on all three properties.The City Council approved buying the Park Circle parcel June 11. It is a third of an acre and is currently an empty lot, last owned by real estate agent Rich Wagar. Pitkin County records don’t show how much Wagar bought the property for, or when.The owners of 488 Castle Creek Road made a quick $2 million flip on the one-acre property by selling it to the city for $5.4 million. WF Castle Creek LLC bought the property last October for $3.4 million from Steel Partners Ltd. City Hall had a chance to buy it at that same time but passed on the opportunity, which could have saved taxpayers $2 million.Henderson said the Castle Creek property could hold up to 15 affordable housing units but that no formal plans have been drawn up. Henderson said he’ll devise a few different development scenarios for all of the properties and present them to elected officials this year.He added that City Hall isn’t looking at any other properties specifically for affordable housing until after a planned housing summit scheduled for early September.”We won’t do anything until we get more specific direction,” he said.City officials have allocated $30 million for housing properties. A 1 percent real estate transfer tax is collected to operate and maintain employee housing. The city also collects a 0.45 percent sales tax for support of the housing program. Of that 0.45 percent sales tax, 45 percent goes to affordable housing development and the management program. The funds generated more than $12 million in 2006.
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