City of Aspen considers $3.1 million in new employee housing | AspenTimes.com

City of Aspen considers $3.1 million in new employee housing

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

The city of Aspen is exploring a $3.1 million project to add employee-housing units in response to demand that is far exceeding inventory.

According to the Capital Asset Department, the city currently supplies city-employee housing to about 15 percent of its workforce while owning around 45 units and employing about 290 people.

A recent city investment of $2.5 million will bring four city-employee units online at Burlingame Ranch, and the city has earmarked another $3.1 million to build or buy property in 2016. The Capital Asset Department recently submitted a $200,000 request to the Aspen City Council to explore future sites for possible development, initial design and soil sampling.

"The need is much higher than what we've been able to provide so far," Capital Asset Director Scott Miller said.

The program is financed through the 505 Fund, an internal city fund established in 2008 that pools money from each city department annually. Miller said the fund balance has been accumulating over time, showing amounts of $4 million in 2014 and $4.8 million in 2015.

"As we look down the road and see a fund balance accumulating, we realize that this year is the year to start investigating another project, whether we build something or buy it," Miller said.

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City-employee units, ranging from studios to a four-bedroom house, are sprinkled around town, with the majority at Water Place, a housing project built near the city's water plant in 1997. The rest can be found on Cemetery Lane, on East Cooper Avenue in an old cabin, near the Aspen Recreation Center and near the Parks Department.

About 30 of the units are employee-owned. If employment ends for the owners, they are required to sell the units back to the city within 180 days. Employees see an estimated 1.5 percent return on investment, compared with the 3 percent return on Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority sales.

"We don't have that much land in the inventory," Facilities and Property Manager Jeff Pendarvis said. "So that's what we were going to spend our money on next year, to really evaluate our inventory of property and to see what we can realistically look to develop."

He added that the program is critical, stating that many of the employees housed are emergency first responders.

Miller said the amount of units that will be added with future investment depends on what the city buys or builds and at what category level.

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