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Pitkin County fields housing offers

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Three months ago, Pitkin County commissioners announced they had $3 million to put toward worker housing. Then the phone started ringing.

“People have flocked to us,” said Phylis Mattice, county internal services director.

About a dozen opportunities to purchase existing units or buy into residential projects that are in development have come to the county’s attention, she said.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet June 23 behind closed doors to discuss the various options and, perhaps, to direct staff to start negotiating potential purchases.

At least one commissioner, Jack Hatfield, is eager to get the housing ball rolling.

“I’m concerned we’re spending too much time ‘bureaucracizing,'” he said this week. “Bring the information to the board and we can make some decisions.”

He was referring to the time staffers have spent developing criteria with which to weigh the various options – cheaper in Carbondale versus closer but more expensive in Aspen, for example. The size, age and condition of units, their proximity to mass transit, number of bedrooms (one-bedroom units are in the greatest demand) and other considerations will come into play as commissioners pick and choose among the possibilities, Mattice said.

A big consideration – whether commissioners are willing to stray beyond the county’s borders to buy housing – has yet to be formally decided, she added.

“They haven’t said it’s a stumbling block, they haven’t said it’s OK,” she said. “We’re wrestling with that.”

Other decisions might be easy, like declining a single-family home in Aspen. “Four bedrooms and one bath – we’re like, we don’t think so,” Mattice said. “That really is a no-brainer. It’s not the right bang for the buck.”

The county has yet to get proactive in its search for housing, like checking the real estate currently for sale, but that could be next the next step, Mattice said.

Partnerships with other public entities interested in investing in employee housing are also being pursued.

The county has some $8 million in its housing fund. In March, commissioners agreed to find out what could be done with $3 million. The goal was roughly a 50-50 split between housing specifically for county employees and worker housing that would be available to any qualified worker in the county.

Housing the county does acquire may be rented, rather than sold, to workers, Mattice said.

janet@aspentimes.com


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