City juggles options for housing |

City juggles options for housing

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer

While the fate of affordable housing at Burlingame Ranch remains up in the air, the Aspen City Council has agreed to set aside funds for both future land purchases and future “buy-downs.”Reviewing the city’s broader plans for affordable housing on Tuesday, the council also agreed that all of the units in the Parcel D project should go into the general housing lottery. And, council members revealed plans for a possible property acquisition on the east side of town and decided the city shouldn’t provide a $5 million subsidy for the Little Ajax project at the base of Shadow Mountain.Council members unanimously agreed they’d like to get the city’s $1 million back out of the Aspen Mass property, but were divided on whether the Zupancis property on Main Street, purchased with $3 million in housing funds, should be sold or used for housing.A staff memo to the council outlined an estimated $138 million worth of potential housing expenditures over the next decade, and scenarios for financing them. The largest expense, $28.3 million to extend a road and utilities to Burlingame and build the first phase of 110 units (including 35 lots that would be sold), may or may not happen.A split council decided to pursue other potential sites, which have not been identified publicly, before making the final call on whether to move forward with Burlingame, where as many as 330 units could be built near Deer Hill, west of town.Among the other proposals up for discussion were:-Parcel D – The 39-unit sale project is under construction next to the Aspen Business Center.The city could recoup $2.2 million by selling 20 of the one-bedroom units to employers for $110,000 apiece, but the council was loath to take any of the units out of the general housing pool. Buyers will have a chance at the new units next year, when they will be sold through a lottery. The units are slated to be priced at Categories 2 and 3.”These are one-bedrooms. There are enough people out there … that I’d like to see have a crack at this kind of housing for a change,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “I really would like to see this go into the general lottery.””I think we owe it to the public, especially because there’s the greatest demand on the one-bedroom units,” agreed Councilman Tim Semrau.-1230 E. Cooper Ave. – An existing, run-down, deed-restricted unit has been identified for possible purchase by the city. The property could be redeveloped with four two-bedroom units with little or no construction subsidy, according to a staff memo.-Little Ajax – Private developers have offered to build 20 units (44 bedrooms) of deed-restricted housing on West Hopkins Ave., at the base of Shadow Mountain, but a mix of Category 3 and 4 units will require a $5 million subsidy.The council balked at plugging $5 million for the project into its housing budget, but agreed to set aside $2 million for “buy-downs” that could go toward Little Ajax or any other project. The city will add $500,000 a year to the fund.”Buy-down” refers to buying down the cost of a unit to make it affordable.”I just think the $5 million as a subsidy for 20 units is way over the top,” said Semrau, suggesting the city let the Little Ajax developers know what the city will put up and direct them to come back with a proposal that works financially, given what the city is prepared to spend. It could mean creating higher-priced units in order to reduce the subsidy, he said.”It’s an option to make this work without spending $5 million,” Semrau said.-Future land acquisitions – There are apparently several potential housing sites on the city’s radar screen, though they haven’t been discussed publicly.The council, however, declined to budget $10 million for land purchases plus some $3.5 million as the subsidy for construction for the first phase of 50 homes, with a total potential development of 150 to 175 units.Semrau opposed setting aside the money for a “mythical” purchase. “It’s not quite that nebulous,” Klanderud countered.The council ultimately agreed to set aside $2 million for land purchases, augmented by $500,000 a year. If a large land purchase suddenly becomes realistic, the city can plug it into its plans, Semrau argued.-Zupancis property – When the council agreed last year to spend $3 million from its housing fund on the property at 540 E. Main St., it agreed to repay the fund by August 2004. The city has offered the site to the fire district; or, it could reimburse the housing fund with money from another city fund in order to hold onto the parcel.Klanderud suggested the city could leave its housing dollars tied up in the property and build housing there.”If it’s an acceptable housing site, why wouldn’t you build it there?” she said.”It’s an extremely expensive site per unit,” Semrau responded.The 15 units that has been “bandied about” for the parcel equates to $200,000 per unit in land costs alone, Richards agreed.-Aspen Mass – The council agreed the property – about 30 acres purchased jointly with Pitkin County at a cost of $1.65 million – should be sold. The city put $1 million into the purchase; the land is located near the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road and has been taken out of consideration as a housing site because it’s outside the urban growth boundary.Council members have hinted the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, made up of elected officials from Aspen, Snowmass Village and the county, should purchase the land with transportation dollars and use it for parking.[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]