Housing panel to look for public-private plans | AspenTimes.com

Housing panel to look for public-private plans

Janet Urquhart

How to bring private-sector dollars into Aspen’s affordable housing program will be the task of a committee the city is forming.

The group will be charged with exploring how to foster partnerships between the public and private sectors on the housing front, according to a housing office memo outlining the proposed committee. In other words, said Mayor Rachel Richards, the committee will look at ways to “create more oomph” for the housing program.

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority Board will decide which two of its members to appoint to the committee tonight.

The panel will examine ways in which the private sector can participate in the housing program through cash or equivalent contributions toward the construction of housing in exchange for a certain number of units dedicated to housing their employees.

In the past, the housing authority has resisted setting aside any units in its projects for certain segments of the population, and that will still be the case, Richards stressed.

In a 50-unit project, for example, there may be a way to have the private sector pay for 10 units for its own use, leaving 40 units for the general work force, she said. Public dollars will go toward the public units.

“We know to accomplish the goal of housing, we need to bring in additional funds,” Richards said. “We’ve talked for a long time about how we can let the private sector participate.

“In a way, in building housing with public funds, you’re letting the business sector off the hook.”

However, a small business wouldn’t have the resources to build a unit on its own. It could piggyback on a public project, though, to gain its own housing, Richards said.

The committee is expected to make specific recommendations before the end of the year, according to the memo.

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