Commissioners: regional housing idea good but complex
Pitkin County commissioners tentatively supported the idea of a valleywide regional affordable-housing authority Tuesday but voiced numerous concerns about how it might work.
“I think this is just the beginning of what’s going to be a long conversation,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “It’s hard for me to use tax money from Pitkin County for a development in Silt.
“That would be a tough sell for voters in Pitkin County.”
Commissioner George Newman agreed, saying that communities like Silt and Rifle in the Interstate 70 corridor, as well as Garfield and Eagle counties, have different values and land-use codes that could prove difficult to meld with those in the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Further, Garfield and Eagle counties have many needs like child care but don’t want to pay for it, he said.
“I think the idea of a regional housing authority is a good one,” Newman said. “I have a hard time subsidizing housing downvalley.
“I don’t see us diluting our housing funds.”
Attorney David Myler and land-use planner Bill Lamont have been pitching the regional housing authority idea in recent months and anticipate that it would include New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, Garfield County, Eagle County and Pitkin County, according to a memo submitted to Pitkin County commissioners. Aspen and Snowmass Village have said they probably would be members, the memo states.
The problem of providing affordable housing for their workforces is the No. 1 or No. 2 priority for those local governments, Myler said.
“So far there’s been a very serious buy-in to the concept,” Myler told commissioners Tuesday. “But everyone agrees the devil’s in the details.”
The agreement could be put together through inter-governmental agreements, while voters in each jurisdiction could be asked to provide a source of funding like property or sales taxes, he said.
Commissioner Rachel Richards said she, too, was interested in the proposal, but didn’t like the idea of increasing already-high sales taxes in the area to fund it. The bigger problem, however, comes down to land-use rules that for some communities are nonexistent and for others are geared toward slow growth.
“It could be unbalanced,” she said.
Richards suggested that possible players in the housing authority come up with an implementation plan and a price tag for it, then see how many communities actually support it and pony up funding.
Commissioner Steve Child suggested possibly expanding the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority all the way to Glenwood Springs. Or, instead of that plan, keep APCHA in place and organize another housing authority for the mid- and lower valley, he said.
“The biggest stumbling block is what to do with APCHA,” Child said.
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Aspen City Council will review the denial of a proposed five-unit affordable housing project that was shot down by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.