Downturn may bring housing site within reach in valley |

Downturn may bring housing site within reach in valley

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Catholic Charities’ housing arm has been searching for another affordable housing site in the Roaring Fork Valley for about 10 years.

The organization has a $3 million donation specifically for that purpose but has struggled for years to find a site. Now there’s greater opportunity to actually make something happen due to the slower real estate market resulting from economic downturn, said Josh Russell, Archdiocesan Housing executive director.

Historically, the problem has been finding sites that were large enough, properly zoned and relatively affordable. Archdiocesan Housing also needs a site that could offer about a year’s sale contingency while the organization works through funding mechanisms like grants and tax credits, Russell said. Land and construction are more expensive than elsewhere and transactions in the Roaring Fork Valley typically happen too fast.

“The market has kind of been almost too robust in a sense for us to compete with more aggressive, for profit companies,” Russell said. “I think though that maybe we’re seeing some of those variables changing. … As sellers look at who the buyers are out there I can’t imagine there’s a lot of retail buyers who are going to be moving quickly ahead.”

The sale of land donated by Fritz and Fabi Benedict of Aspen about 10 years ago raised about $3 million for Archdiocesan Housing, Russell said. The donation was intended for affordable housing somewhere in the Roaring Fork Valley, which extends from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Russell said it could make the critical last piece of financing ” maybe the last 10 percent ” for a 50-unit affordable rental property.

Archdiocesan Housing hopes to eventually build two 50- or 60-unit apartment properties in the valley. Units would be built with financing including the federal low income housing tax credits, and they would rent for up to 40 percent less than the median market rate.

For now, Archdiocesan Housing is focusing on getting one of the properties done. But the “astronomical” need for affordable housing in the valley continues to be among the greatest in the state, Russell said.

Archdiocesan Housing built the Machebeuf Apartments in Glenwood Springs and the Villas de Santa Lucia in Carbondale. It has tried to develop its latest project, using the Benedicts’ donation, in Basalt, but is also looking as far downvalley as Glenwood Springs.

“We continue to look anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley. We’re talking to several developers now from Aspen to Glenwood,” said Darryl Grosjean, owner of Basalt Realty and a Catholic Charities Western Slope Advisory Board member. “We have yet to identify a site but we would love to do this within the next two years.”

Archdiocesan Housing has 22 properties with around 1,400 units in Colorado. Its mission is to provide affordable housing for people who can’t afford decent housing.

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