City wrestles with razing, replacing multifamily units |

City wrestles with razing, replacing multifamily units

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A new ordinance that would allow developers to tear down multifamily buildings and replace them without providing worker housing stalled before the Aspen City Council on Monday.

The measure would allow the razing and replacement of buildings containing three or more residences – with no affordable housing requirement – so long as the new building contained the same number of units and bedrooms as the old one.

Currently, such a redevelopment would force developers to replace half of the bedrooms and square footage in the demolished building with deed-restricted housing for workers, according to Chris Bendon, a city planner.

So, to get around the housing requirement, developers will sometimes retain just enough of the old building so that the redevelopment counts as a remodeling project versus a demolition. The housing requirements don’t apply to a remodeling job.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards balked, however, at letting developers rip down old apartment buildings, which typically house local workers even though the units aren’t deed-restricted, in order to build new, expensive condos that will be out of reach for the displaced tenants.

“I think that this will give us a product that is unaffordable housing,” she said. “It’s not just the density, it’s the type of units. It’s not just the number of units, it’s the affordability of the units.”

The city is also in the midst of reworking its definition of “demolition.” A second reading on that ordinance is scheduled Nov. 24.

The council voted to continue its consideration of the ordinance regulating the demolition and replacement of multifamily housing to that date, as well, since the two ordinances are somewhat linked.

Councilman Tim Semrau urged the council to provide developers with some ability to rebuild aging, rundown multifamily buildings to prevent “quasi-slums” around town.

“We don’t want to adopt ordinances that preclude modernization,” he said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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