Developers: Housing rules aren’t answer
Even if Basalt officials manage to avoid the worst of Aspen’s housing regulations, they still could create more problems than they will solve, warn developers.
In a recent public hearing held by the Town Council, a handful of developers warned that establishing affordable housing requirements in Basalt will drive up prices across the board and put free-market residences further out of reach for more middle-class locals.
Basalt architect Ted Guy claimed requiring developers to provide affordable housing will “hasten” the proliferation of second homes in the rapidly changing community.
Council members countered that’s happening anyway. The upscaling of the Basalt market is enticing developers to propose fewer, larger and costlier units.
Basalt’s proposed rules would require developers of residential projects to devote 20 percent of all dwellings and 15 percent of all bedrooms to affordable housing.
Developers of commercial property would be required to provide housing for 20 percent of employees generated.
Frieda Wallison, who is seeking approval for a mixed commercial and residential project called Riverwalk in Basalt, said the subsidy required for the affordable housing would be difficult to generate. Her application says it would flat out make the project “uneconomical.”
She is seeking a variance from the full affordable housing obligation. The town hasn’t ruled on her request, yet.
Wallison said she believes it’s important to address the need for affordable housing, but she isn’t sure Basalt is headed in the right direction. She said she keeps exploring ways to make all her units affordable for year-round residents.
Developer Michael Lipkin – a partner in the massive Sopris Meadows project, now known as Willits – said the town’s affordable housing rules could create the very problems they are designed to address.
He claimed he’s aware of only one second-home owner who has purchased a residence among scores developed so far at Willits. If he had been required to subsidize affordable housing, the price of the free-market units would have been higher – and out of reach of many of the middle-class locals who are now buying, he claimed.
Town officials note they have the support of residents to do something more to preserve Basalt’s diversity of housing. A community survey showed 83 percent of respondents want the town government to play some role in encouraging development of affordable housing.
Slightly more than 43 percent of respondents said “the town should require developers to mitigate the impacts of their projects by providing affordable housing or equivalent funds as part of their projects.”
Councilman Chris Lane said he was “proud” of the direction Basalt is headed with its regulations.
“I get reminded on a weekly basis of people my age having to leave the valley because of a lack of affordable housing,” Lane said.
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