New Truscott units to open in August | AspenTimes.com

New Truscott units to open in August

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Local workers who have been waiting for several years for a crack at an affordable Aspen apartment may finally get their chance with the expansion of Truscott Place.

The first of 99 new rental units at the complex are expected to be ready for occupancy on Aug. 1. As construction of several buildings nears completion in plain view from Highway 82, interest is heating up.

“As people see the units going up and close to being finished, we are getting a lot of calls,” said Michelle Bonfils, project manager for the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.

Housing officials hope to put a dent in the waiting list for rental housing with the new Truscott units, but the demand will far exceed the supply, Bonfils predicted.

“It will definitely help the waiting list, but it’s not going to take care of all the needs,” she said. “It will definitely take care of a big chunk.”

The expansion of Truscott, next to the city golf course, includes 58 units in Phase I and 41 units in Phase II. The 99 units will add 123 bedrooms to the complex.

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Three buildings containing half of the Phase I units will be ready in August; the other three buildings should open Sept. 1. The Phase II units will be ready for renters on Oct. 1, if all goes according to schedule.

Already, there are priority takers for some of the Phase I units. Some current Truscott renters will move into Phase I units because their incomes exceed new caps that are going into effect for the existing 200 and 300 buildings at Truscott.

“They get first dibs on picking which units they want in Phase I,” Bonfils said. “They’ll make their decision by the end of this month.”

Then, several city departments that have put funds toward the construction of the Truscott expansion will have their pick of units for about a dozen city employees.

The third priority was to be private-sector employers who were offered a chance to contract for units, which they could then fill with their own employees. The tenants would, however, have to meet the Housing Authority’s income guidelines.

Employers were not offered an opportunity to own apartments outright, but could buy the right to reserve a unit at $90,000 for a studio, $105,000 for a one-bedroom and $140,000 for a two-bedroom. They would also be able to sell their contract to another business for an unregulated price.

“We were hoping that the private sector would get involved in affordable housing,” said Jay Leavitt, director of development for the Housing Authority.

Though Leavitt has fielded some inquiries, none of the units have been placed under contract. Employers seem to be interested in outright ownership of a unit, he said.

“I think the private sector is looking for equity,” Leavitt said.

The original Truscott budget anticipated $1.7 million from private-sector participation, but that sum can be covered with other funds, according to Leavitt.

With no private-sector takers, the rest of the units will be offered first to people on the rental unit wait list, Bonfils said. The list typically has between 200 and 300 people on it at any given time, including many who wait for several years for their names to rise to the top.

New callers are added daily, but their chances of securing a Truscott unit are slim, Bonfils said.

“If you’ve been working here 20 years, but you’ve never been on the wait list, you’re going to be on the bottom,” she said.

Unless, that is, the Housing Authority does away with the wait list.

The list is currently scheduled for a discussion by the housing board on May 29. One proposal floating around is to eliminate the wait list and advertise deed-restricted rental units when they become available. Anyone interested in the unit would respond to the ad. The apartment would be awarded to the qualified individual with the greatest seniority – the one with the longest work history in Pitkin County, Bonfils said.

Under that scenario, the local worker who has been here 20 years would have a very good chance of securing an apartment, she said.

Rents for most of the Phase I units at Truscott will be set at the Housing Authority’s Category 3 level: $964 per month for a studio; $1,076 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,189 per month for a two-bedroom unit.

The Phase II rents will be slightly lower. A studio will rent for $829 per month, a one-bedroom flat will go for $878 and a two-bedroom unit will rent for $1,046.

The construction of Phase II and the refurbishing of the existing 200 and 300 buildings at Truscott is being partially financed through low-income housing tax credits. As a result, new income regulations, established by the Colorado Housing Finance Authority, will be imposed on the units, effective Aug. 1.

Renters of those units must meet lower income caps than the ones the Housing Authority will impose on the Phase I units.

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