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Habitat will ask Aspen for significantly less than value of credits

Staff Report

A Habitat for Humanity representative said Monday that his organization will ask the city of Aspen for a subsidy that’s significantly less than the estimated $900,000 in affordable-housing certificates the group originally sought in financing its Category 1 housing project.

Using an East Cooper Avenue site the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority plans to donate, the nonprofit’s local chapter is proposing to build Aspen’s first Category 1 housing with two three-bedroom units.

Habitat and the housing authority initially requested three certificates to fund the project, which drew objection from city officials. Established in 2010, the certificates, which carry a value of as much as $300,000 each, are offered to developers who build beyond affordable-housing requirements. The developers can then sell the certificates to other developers seeking their own mitigation. In September, Community Development Director Chris Bendon asked the Aspen City Council to re-examine the program and advised against allowing anything with the appearance of using public funds to assist private development.

“It’s less than what the affordable-housing credits would have gotten for us. Significantly less,” Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley president Scott Gilbert said of the subsidy request, declining to disclose the exact amount.

Gilbert discussed the subsidy with city officials and the housing authority Friday. Assistant City Manager Barry Crook, who was present, said city subsidy is likely, but there are still many details that need ironing. The potential for county contribution is one.

“We’ve got some things to work through, but it’s looking pretty good,” Crook said, adding that Community Development will need to review any variance requests. “Just like any developer that’s got an idea, we want to make sure your idea is going to work.”

Also attending Friday’s meeting were new Housing Director Mike Kosdrosky, Housing Operations manager Cindy Christensen and Aspen’s affordable-housing project manager Chris Everson.

According to property records, the housing authority purchased the 6,000-square-foot lot for $289,753 in 2009. Gilbert said Habitat does not plan to ask the housing office for subsidy beyond the donation, but speaking to the county is one of the next steps. On Monday, County Manager Jon Peacock, who expressed a willingness to discuss partnership opportunities in January, said there have not been any new discussions.

“We’re still waiting to get some information through Habitat and the city, but still looking forward to the discussion,” Peacock said.

Habitat is expecting about $225,000 in pre-construction costs and $700,000 for construction. Gilbert estimated Monday that Habitat will sell each unit at a price between $275,000 and $325,000. The monthly mortgage rate, he said, could be set around $900 over a 25- or 35-year period.

“There’s nothing like it on the market, in terms of the price we’re looking at,” Gilbert said. “When people see that number, they’re going to go, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy.’”

Crook said the city is examining Habitat’s pro forma, which details revenues and expenses associated with the project. That will go a long way in determining if and at what amount each government entity will contribute.

“We need to … figure out what that means in terms of public subsidy beyond the land that the authority is willing to provide, and then figure out who’s going to pay what, whether the county is going to participate in the project and at what level and how much they need from the city to make the project a go,” Crook said.

He added that it could be a few months before the council is able to review a proposal.

herk@aspentimes.com


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