Housing crisis may get divine intervention | AspenTimes.com

Housing crisis may get divine intervention

The affordable housing crunch in the Roaring Fork Valley has got some residents praying for divine intervention. They might get the next best thing.

The Catholic Church’s Archdiocese of Denver is seeking land for a housing project somewhere in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“The Diocese figures they better build now because the prices keep going up and up and up,” said Father Tom Bradtke of St. Vincent and St. Mary of the Crown parishes in Basalt and Carbondale.

The effort was made possible by a gift from the estate of Fritz and Fabi Benedict. The Benedicts donated land in Hunter Creek Valley – south of the creek and west of the Forest Service boundary – to the archdiocese and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.

The land was sold for nearly $4 million, according to Angie Montgomery, director of development for the Archdiocean Housing Committee Inc. The committee is separated but affiliated with the archdiocese.

The funds from the Benedict gift became available late last year. They are restricted for use on affordable housing anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley, Montgomery said.

Although the archdiocese has built housing projects in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, it hasn’t ruled those towns out of its search.

“The need is so great everywhere up there,” Montgomery noted.

The goal, she said, is to provide low-cost housing for people already living in the valley, not bring more people in.

“We’re trying to serve families that live and work in the community, like the gas station attendants and the maids,” Montgomery explained. “They cannot live in the towns although they sustain the community.”

The church has already provided more than 116 units of housing for low-income residents in the valley. It built the 55-unit Machebeuf Apartments in West Glenwood Springs and the 61-unit Villas de Santa Lucia in Carbondale.

Outside the valley, the archdiocese’s housing arm has built a 61-unit project in Silverthorne and the 61-unit Holy Cross Village in Gypsum. The Gypsum project was the latest built, in 1997.

Montgomery said a project of between 50 and 75 mixed apartments of one, two and three bedrooms is targeted next. While no land has been acquired yet, the church is already in a better position to proceed than with the earlier projects.

“When we’ve built a project before, we’ve always come to the table with no money,” said Montgomery. Grants and tax credits are typically used for the housing projects.

This time, the housing committee is in possession of about two-thirds of the nearly $4 million gift from the Benedicts. That $2.6 million share will be applied to the land purchase, said Montgomery. Any remainder will be applied to construction, which will help keep rents lower.

The archdiocese’s housing branch is looking for a minimum of five to six acres of land somewhere in the valley. Church officials met with the mayors of the Roaring Fork Valley Saturday to discuss housing issues and potential sites. Also searching on the behalf of the church is Lou Trapani, a Glenwood Springs real estate agent.

Father Bradtke stressed that no project is definite at this point, but anyone with land available can contact him at 927-4882. “The closer to Aspen the better,” he said.

Bradtke noted that there are social implications for valley residents spending so much of their time commuting from downvalley homes to upvalley businesses. It pays off to house people close to their employment, he said.

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