Pitco skeptical about fund for downvalley housing | AspenTimes.com

Pitco skeptical about fund for downvalley housing

The Pitkin County commissioners expressed skepticism in helping to fund a lower-valley affordable housing initiative yesterday.

A representative from Healthy Mountain Communities, a regional nonprofit based in Carbondale, asked the board for money to support the creation of the Roaring Fork Community Housing Fund. The program would go toward the development of affordable housing in the lower Roaring Fork Valley.

Garfield County, the town of Carbondale and the town of Basalt have all committed financial support for the fund, which should be operational by early spring. Once the fund is established, private developers, alone or in partnership with nonprofit developers, will apply for loans and grants.

Commissioner Jack Hatfield said Pitkin County agreed with an affordable housing fund leveraging resources across jurisdictions in principle. But with competing housing authorities also asking for funding, and with the county projecting a budget shortfall in the coming years, the county could not commit practical support for the fund.

“We support this initiative,” Hatfield said. “But it’s premature to decide how to allocate resources at this time. I’m just not ready to fund another organization that we have to worry about financing each year.”

Commissioner Patti Clapper added that supporting housing downvalley conflicts with the county’s policy of favoring housing for Aspen’s work force near the city center.

“I understand the need for housing downvalley,” she said. “But I’m concerned how it might affect the employee base here. The people that live downvalley tend to work downvalley. I think our focus needs to be closer to home.”

The commissioners stopped short of making a final decision on funding and scheduled a work session in January. Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who was on hand to lobby the board for financing, predicted even without Pitkin County support, the fund will go ahead.

“With parts of Basalt and the Crystal River Valley in Pitkin County, I think the county would have been an important partner,” Houpt said. “But I also think the fund will move on even without their support.”

[Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com]

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