Does a $300,000 townhouse count as affordable housing? | AspenTimes.com
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Does a $300,000 townhouse count as affordable housing?

A midvalley developer insists that he is providing the kind of housing Basalt needs and that the town government shouldn’t stop his momentum by shackling him with regulations.

Developer Michael Lipkin has applied to the town to upzone the last residential land in his Willits development so he could build up to 150 additional residences. He contended at a Town Council meeting Tuesday night that his project should be exempt from building affordable housing that meets the town’s criteria on prices and income levels of buyers.

Lipkin said he is already providing affordable housing ? free-market style. He noted that Willits is home to about 500 people and that the various neighborhoods within the development have 75 children under the age of 6. Lipkin said he is unaware of any second homes in the development.

“Something’s working here,” he said. “You guys have to figure out what’s working and why.”

But Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens retorted that townhouses that sell for $300,000 and single-family homes that start at $400,000 hardly meet the town’s definition of affordable housing.

Stevens said Willits residences are only affordable for professionals or households earning at least $70,000 annually. A primary goal of the town government is to maintain at least 30 percent of the housing for people “on the low end of the food chain,” he noted.

@ATD Sub heds:Town’s requirement

@ATD body copy: The town’s land-use code requires that 20 percent of residences in a new residential development meet deed-restricted, affordable guidelines.

But Lipkin’s lawyer, Herb Klein of Aspen, has taken the position that Willits is immune because of agreements reached with the town before affordable housing was required.

In addition, Lipkin and his partners, Basalt developer Clay Crossland and Paul Adams, contend that Willits is already addressing more than its requirement for affordable housing.

The town has already approved more than 400 residences in Willits. The developers claim that size caps on some of the units will keep the prices down. The proposed units would also be of limited size.

“More than 50 percent of the residential units in the project are size restricted and are of the product type that appeals to local workers at a price they can afford,” Klein wrote in a letter to the town earlier in the debate over affordable housing.

The town’s position is that no prior agreements exempt Willits from housing requirements.

@ATD Sub heds:Debate spurred lawsuit

@ATD body copy: This isn’t the only battle these developers and the town are waging over affordable housing.

The town government is also trying to apply the housing requirements to a proposal called Midland Addition, which Lipkin, Adams and Crossland are trying to build adjacent to the Basalt Post Office.

The developers claim that project is also exempt due to prior agreements with the town. The developers took their dispute to court, with housing being one point of contention.

Neither side appears willing to budge in the housing debate at Willits. The town staff noted in its review that the housing issue is still unresolved and that the application doesn’t comply with the town code or master plan.

Mitch Haas, the developer’s land-use planner, responded that they are sticking with their contention that the affordable housing code doesn’t apply to the project.

Haas wrote that the applicants remain “steadfast” in their position that they aren’t obligated to provide deed-restricted housing.

“Staff and applicant are apparently going to have to agree to disagree on this issue and allow the proposal to proceed to hearings,” Haas wrote.

Lipkin told the Town Council Tuesday that forcing him to subsidize some housing would just drive the cost of free-market housing higher.

No agreement was reached on the issue, but the project was slated for further review by the planning commission.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]


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