Aspen affordable housing projects under construction gaining more interest
After a decade of the city of Aspen sitting on the land, the construction of three affordable housing rental complexes around town are coming along quickly, with move-ins expected as early as spring.
“Right now we are getting a lot of inquiry from folks on how to apply to these units and we are basically referring them back to (the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority) to check back with them at the beginning of the year,” Chris Everson, the city’s affordable housing project manager, said to Aspen City Council last week during a 2020 budget update.
The project that is most noticeable is the building going up at 802 Main St. on the S-curves, which will offer 10 one-bedroom units.
It’s the first one scheduled to be complete, with anticipated occupancy in May, Everson said.
The next complex, at 517 Park Circle, will be online by July. That will generate 11 apartments, seven of which are one-bedroom units and four two bedrooms.
The third one, located at 488 Castle Creek Road, will be ready either in August or September, Everson said. That has 23 units, 14 of which are one-bedrooms and 10 are two bedrooms.
Combined, they bring 45 new apartments into the inventory that address a need for low-income housing.
“Most of them will serve people who make $43,000 or less a year,” Everson told council, adding that represents about 70% of the new units.
The rest will span income levels from $43,000 to $154,980, the latter of which is the cap of a category 4 unit.
APCHA Deputy Director Cindy Christensen said this week that the agency hasn’t formalized a process yet on how to choose qualified tenants for the projects.
Once the apartments are occupied, the property managers for each complex will take over the leasing and waiting lists for when apartments become available.
The projects are public-private partnership between the city and developer Jason Bradshaw, who represents Aspen Housing Partners LLC.
Bradshaw said the developments’ property manager will meet with APCHA in the future and determine how the lottery is conducted.
It likely won’t be like it is for those bidding on ownership units in which tenure in the community gives applicants the better chance, he noted.
“I don’t want tenure to be part of it. I want it to be an open and fair process,” Bradshaw said. “It ought to be open to everyone.”
The public-private partnership consists of the city leasing the land to Aspen Housing Partners, as well as serving as the construction lender for the developments.
Combined, the constructions loans amount to around $9 million.
The city’s financing gets paid back within three months of when the units are occupied, Bradshaw said.
Aspen Housing Partners owns the buildings on the land for 15 years and if the city wants to buy them at that time, it can exercise that right.
The city bought the three parcels, along with what is now the Harbert Lumberyard property near the Aspen Business Center, in the mid 2000s as part of a land banking effort for future affordable housing.
The city is just beginning its planning process and public outreach for developing what could be over 100 units on the lumberyard site.
The three new developments by Aspen Housing Partners and the city will be the first rentals put into the local inventory in 15 years, Everson told council.
However, since 2005, there have been 230 ownership units developed; about 70% of them serve income levels of category 3 and up, which begins at $98,280 for a one-person household.
Bradshaw and the city expect a fair amount of people entering their names into the lottery for the three new developments because the need is so great.
“There are a lot of people who live here and work here full time and I can see the value of deed-restricted ownership when you are committed here and have families,” Bradshaw said, adding that the need for renters is just as great, if not more than the homeownership. “You still have people living on other people’s couches and that’s not a good situation to build a workforce here.
“There’s not enough of any of it.”