Competition eases for Aspen worker housing
ASPEN – Competition for Aspen’s worker housing, at one time cutthroat enough to draw 100 or more prospective buyers for the choicest units, has slacked off enough that someone entering a housing lottery these days has a decent chance at winning.Sales of deed-restricted worker housing in Aspen and Pitkin County for the first half of 2010 are actually up, but the number of participants, or bidders, entering the lotteries has dropped, as the recession impacts this quirky segment of the local real estate industry.Only full-time workers in Pitkin County, as defined by the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority guidelines, are eligible to enter lotteries for the subsidized housing that has been set aside for the local workforce. When the resort’s economy was humming, lottery competition was intense, particularly for lower-priced units and among single individuals hoping to win the chance to buy a studio or one-bedroom condo.”Now, we actually have single people getting two bedrooms,” said Cindy Christensen, housing operations manager.Under the housing authority guidelines, a two-person household has priority for a two-bedroom unit over a single buyer, but a single person can purchase a two-bedroom unit if there are no qualified two-person households putting in a bid. That never used to happen, but it does now.And, a new member of the workforce has a shot at a unit these days. That never used to happen either. Until recently, a worker who hadn’t achieved priority status (at least four years of full-time employment in the county) needn’t have bothered entering a housing lottery. There were plenty of priority bidders to ensure a newcomer wouldn’t stand a chance.”If someone doesn’t have a four-year work history, they have a chance at getting a unit now,” Christensen said. “I think the last time that happened was 1992.”In fact, a newly employed worker who can qualify for the loan could purchase a new three-bedroom, three-bath house at Woody Creek Park right now without even bothering to enter a lottery. The deed-restricted home, priced at $498,000, has been sitting on the market, as have a couple of mobile homes in the neighborhood.In the first six months of this year, the housing authority logged 42 sales worth $10.9 million. In all of 2009, there were 72 sales worth $14.9 million, including nine new units at the Pacific Avenue Condominiums that were sold for the first time.This year’s sales don’t reflect any newly built projects seeing their first offering, but resales of existing units are up, according to Christensen, who isn’t surprised this year’s dollar volume is already inching toward last year’s total. A growing number of pricier units have come on the market as workers in the more expensive tiers of deed-restricted housing find they can now make the jump into free-market housing in communities farther down the valley. In other cases, owners of higher-priced units are bidding on lower-priced condos within their complex as they become available. Residents of a housing complex have first dibs to purchase another unit within the complex.”It used to be people were going to a bigger unit because their family was growing,” Christensen said. “We’re just seeing people who, their finances have changed, so they’re looking at downsizing a little bit.” Workers simply leaving the area are also helping boost the number of units coming up for sale, Christensen said.For anyone hoping to purchase worker housing, though, the real story is in the number of bidders entering lotteries for units that saw heavy competition in the pre-recession economy. Dozens of bids were typical for many units and a brand new condo or townhouse could lure more than 100, or even 200, prospective buyers.This year, a lottery for a one-bedroom, one-bath unit at Annie Mitchell Homestead attracted 22 bidders. Another one lured 27 bidders. In both 2007 and 2008, similarly priced units drew 42 lottery participants.At Seventh & Main, a one-bedroom, one-bath condo priced at $163,781 attracted 27 bids in March. Last year, a comparably priced unit in the complex lured 48 bids.A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo at Centennial, priced at $161,900, attracted 12 bids this year. In 2008, a comparable unit priced at $174,471 drew 42 bids.Also this year, a one-bedroom, one bath Centennial condo priced at $145,055 attracted 22 bids. Two years ago, a similar unit priced at $134,306 lured 74 bidders.In March, housing hopefuls had a once-in-six chance of winning the lottery for a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at Centennial. The price for the sunny unit overlooking town: $211,email@example.com
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