Affordable housing that’s affordable: Basalt project will charge less than allowed
December 13, 2017
The developer of a new affordable-housing complex in Basalt is going to charge less rent than the town would allow on 44 of 56 units.
Indiana-based RealAmerica Inc. asked the Town Council on Tuesday night to amend the deed restrictions on its Roaring Fork Apartments to reflect the lower rents on the 44 units. The company will charge the rents allowed by the town's affordable-housing guidelines on the remaining 12 units.
"The applicant's proposing that all but 12 of the units would be affordable to those individuals and families making less than 60 percent of the Area Median Income," Assistant Planning Director James Lindt told the council.
"Staff thinks this is a good deviation in that the units will be super-affordable and serve a population that really hasn't been served at this point by the town's affordable-housing program," Lindt said.
RealAmerica's direction is a departure from business as usual. Developers often complain to Roaring Fork Valley governments that the affordable-housing guidelines are too onerous or impractical to achieve financially.
RealAmerica received rental-housing tax credits from the Colorado Housing and Financing Authority. It sells those credits to raise capital for construction. In return for the credits, it had to agree to rents that turned out to be significantly lower than those allowed by Basalt's affordable-housing guidelines.
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For example, Basalt's lowest category of affordable housing is aimed at individuals or households making less than 80 percent of the area median income. Category 2 is between 80 and 100 percent of area median income and Category 3 is no greater than 120 percent of area median income.
RealAmerica will charge rents aimed at individual and households making between 30 and 60 percent of area median income on 44 units.
That will result in monthly rents that range from $520 to $1,071 for one-bedroom units and $623 to $1,285 for two-bedroom residences. Utilities are extra.
The state requirements don't place any limits on the rents that could be charged at the remaining 12 units. However, RealAmerica will meet Basalt guidelines and rent to individuals and households that make 120 percent of the area median income. For those units, a one-bedroom will cost $1,540 per month to rent, while a two-bedroom residence would cost $1,630.
The Town Council unanimously approved the amendments to the deed restrictions.
Roaring Fork Apartments is being built along Highway 82 next to Stubbies bar in Basalt. The first units will be ready to occupy this winter.
RealAmerica President Ronda Weybright said her company has built affordable-housing projects around the country for 22 years and is exploring another project in the Roaring Fork Valley.
"This is a repeatable option in the valley and we are actively looking for a second site for additional affordable apartments as we believe the need is great," she said in an email.
The key to the project was acquiring the tax credits, which provide much of the equity and allow RealAmerica to charge rents below affordable-housing guidelines and well below market rates.
"Due to our track record and relationships, we typically obtain favorable equity pricing and loan terms, and that goes a long way in closing gaps we may have," Weybright said.
She believes the project can be a model for providing affordable housing in the Roaring Fork Valley.
"Definitely, construction costs are much higher than we are used to, and the labor, materials, etc., are more challenging than in Indiana, but we took all of that into account when we planned the project and are happy to say we are coming in on target with our budget and planning expectations," Weybright said.
RealAmerica will be the owner and manager of the project after completion. It will screen applicants to make sure they qualify, with spot checks of the work by the town government staff.
The tenant priorities were tweaked for the project because the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority contributed to the project as a special limited partner. (Basalt isn't a partner but contributed $175,000 to the project.)
Applicants who are full-time employees in Basalt have the highest priority for the units. Individuals or households that include at least one member who is a full-time employee in Pitkin County get the next higher priority.
The third-highest priority goes to qualified retirees who have owned affordable housing in Basalt or Pitkin County for at least 10 years prior to the application and has been a qualified employee in the town or county for 10 years.
"I think the residents will really enjoy the common spaces, storage and outdoor patio and I look forward to many visits where I can see them intersect together and enjoy the fruits of our work," Weybright wrote.
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