Basalt council candidates outline positions on affordable housing
Editor’s note: There are six candidates for three seats on the Basalt Town Council in the April 3 election. The Aspen Times will run a Q&A forum with the candidates Monday through Friday this week.
Question: Basalt has added a significant amount of affordable housing recently. How high of a priority would additional affordable housing be for you and how should the town accomplish it?
William Infante: Many who grew up in Basalt, and others who now work in town, can’t afford to buy or rent. This includes many who serve on our esteemed police force, our teachers, health care professionals, and the entrepreneurs who collectively are the bedrock of our community and local economy. If Basalt hopes to recruit and retain a demographically diverse population of knowledge-based and skilled leaders and thinkers, providing greater access to affordable housing is imperative. Basalt and our valley need more housing options for young families, budding entrepreneurs and older-age cohorts who may be on a fixed income. I favor solutions that capitalize on market mechanisms to inspire and finance the construction of affordable housing, and am opposed to the expenditure of public funds or the levy of additional taxes to finance it. I believe that Town Council should advance the policies that promote construction of affordable housing, and that the private sector should shoulder the financing, construction and management.
Ryan Slack: It is great we have all this new affordable housing coming online. This housing took years of planning and approval, so we need to make sure that we continue to look forward at additional areas for affordable housing. We will never be able to build enough affordable housing to meet the demand. I believe any additional affordable housing should use the Habitat for Humanity project behind the high school as a model. This was put together in a public/private partnership, including checks and balances helping to reserve housing for current employees in the county and at the school. I would like to place a priority on housing for our teachers, firefighters, police officers and town employees. All of these groups are vital and help strengthen our community.
Gary Tennenbaum: It is awesome that we can even ask this question since the amount of affordable housing that has been created in the past four years has been amazing. This would never have been a question when I was elected back in 2014. The town’s partnerships with the school district, Pitkin County, private developers and Habitat for Humanity have been instrumental in creating the substantial amount of housing that has been and is in the process of being built. Going forward the town needs to update the housing survey to reflect what has been created and survey the citizens to see what they feel is still needed on affordable housing, and we need to keep the partnerships flourishing and include Eagle County Housing into future affordable-housing needs projections and projects.
Bernie Grauer: Providing additional affordable housing continues to be one of my priorities. Until this year, the town had only about 19 units of affordable housing. There is a tremendous backlog of need and demand for these units in town. The stunning production of over 127 affordable units in the past two years is a real accomplishment, but the job is not done. I support seeking out and investing in more partnerships with other governments and entities in the joint production of more affordable housing, which was so successful in the past two years.
Todd Hartley: Affordable housing is not as high a priority for me as it might be for others. We have 57 affordable rental apartments coming online right now next to Stubbies. There will be 27 affordable homes built for teachers behind the high school. Willits has some affordable housing with more to come, El Jebel is adding what looks like an army barracks of doublewides near Eagle Crest Nursery, and much of the proposed 340 units at the Tree Farm are projected to be affordable or “attainable.” More importantly, all told, between Willits, the Tree Farm, Stott’s Mill and other developments already in the pipeline, we could have more than 750 to 800 additional homes in the area in the next few years (with a population gain of more than 1,800, based on a national average of 2.5 people per household). All that housing will find its own equilibrium. I think we need to impose a moratorium on any large-scale residential projects for the time being until we see how all the current development pans out.
Carol Hawk: I believe affordable/accessible housing will always be a high priority. There has been a large demand and only recently have we begun to see a supply. Stott’s Mill and Habitat’s recent approvals are exciting and will become a reality in the next two to five years so we need to be looking beyond that time frame to anticipate what is needed next. Most of the new affordable housing is rental housing. Stott’s Mill and the Habitat housing will have whole ownership options but I would like to see more organized affordable housing oversight and an inventory that includes “category” housing for sale. It would be nice to offer more options for people who want to live in Basalt and stay in Basalt for years to come by becoming homeowners. Town will need to get creative. I would also like to see some new affordable housing specifically geared toward our senior citizens as well as for our town employees. For more on this issue, check out my Facebook page, Carol Hawk for Basalt Council.
The differences between Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Michael Buglione — whether professional, political or personal — were on full display at Thursday’s candidate debate held in Aspen.