Pitco may split from city on housing regs | AspenTimes.com

Pitco may split from city on housing regs

Sarah S. Chung

Discussing the guidelines at a work session Thursday, commissioners leaned toward a set of regulations that would not require an average sale price per unit within future affordable housing projects.

“Instead of motivating private developers, it would be just cranking down even tighter,” said Commissioner Shellie Harper.

Several weeks ago, the Aspen City Council adopted new affordable housing guidelines that establish a $425,000 cap on resident occupied, or RO, housing and also set an average price of about $170,000 per unit within affordable housing projects. Council members said they hoped to encourage the production of more lower-priced units and less of the pricey RO.

The measures, particularly the average price, produced an outcry from private developers, most notably Tim Semrau, who said the private sector would no longer find it profitable to produce affordable housing.

Commissioners also voiced concerns that housing projects may be turning out too many higher-priced units that are unattainable to a majority of working residents.

“Are we subsidizing housing for people who have other choices? Is that our goal? Because community subsidy isn’t all financial,” said Commissioner Leslie Lamont. “There’s also the consideration of subsidy in terms of supporting greater density.”

Commissioners reached a general consensus on the need for the RO price cap, but a majority supported the idea of eliminating the $170,000 average price in order to set up “an interesting experiment.” Differing regulations in the county and city would show whether the average price requirement pushes private builders out of the affordable housing picture or not, commissioners reasoned.

Commissioner Patti Clapper, however, wonders if there is a way to encourage more private/public partnerships that meet both sectors’ goals. Why not allow private developers to build RO units, then have the Housing Authority buy the units and resell them at a lower price, she suggested.

The public subsidies required would be comparable to the Housing Authority building the homes, Clapper argued, and the authority could make lower-priced units available to the work force while the developer would get the same return.

Commissioners will hold two public hearings on the guidelines before they are adopted.

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