How many more units is enough? | AspenTimes.com

How many more units is enough?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Before Aspen figures out how many more units of affordable housing it needs to build, it will have to figure out how much is enough.

The City Council grappled with that concept at a work session Tuesday.

A recently completed housing master plan settled upon a proposed goal of housing 60 percent of the local work force in the Aspen area. Based on the number of working households and the number of workers already living locally, the consultants who drafted the plan concluded Aspen is currently 995 units shy of meeting that 60 percent goal.

Councilman Tim Semrau suggested the city shoot for housing 55 percent of its work force locally. That means Aspen currently needs 606 more units.

The updated Aspen Area Community Plan, adopted in early 2000, called for 800 to 1,300 more units of deed-restricted housing. Since then, 457 new units have been built, according to the consultants’ tally. Another 606 units would bring the additional housing stock to 1,063 units, which is close to the middle of the AACP’s recommended range, Semrau noted.

“That strikes me as a reasonable middle ground,” he said.

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“I could live with 50 percent,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, calling 55 percent the “top number” she’d be willing to consider.

“Quite frankly, 60 percent, I think, is just too high,” she said.

Whatever the percentage, the end goal in both the AACP and the housing master plan is to create a sustainable community of full-time residents. But what number of working residents will create that community is anybody’s guess.

“How do you pick a percentage?” Klanderud said.

“Hell if I know,” Semrau said. “It really is arbitrary. We’re never going to know. It is, unfortunately, a feel-good number.”

According to the consultants, Aspen is currently housing about 47 percent of its work force, which Klanderud called “extraordinary.”

Since two members of the council, Tom McCabe and Terry Paulson, had already left the meeting, a future discussion will be necessary before the city establishes its goal. Councilman Tony Hershey said he could support 55 percent.

Once the city has settled on a goal, Semrau said he would support a phased approach to constructing housing to meet it.

Klanderud, too, called for a conservative approach rather than trying to build a lot of units all at once.

“This sort of driven approach – that’s insane as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

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