Proposal jars with Pitco rules | AspenTimes.com
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Proposal jars with Pitco rules

Janet Urquhart

The developers of W/J Ranch will likely find themselves tweaking their plans in order to make some of the 141 affordable housing units they’ve proposed a little more affordable.

The ranch’s owners, Lowe W/J, submitted a plan Friday that calls for 42 resident occupied or RO units, 83 Category 4 detached homes and 16 townhomes priced at Category 3 levels. Twelve free-market homes are also proposed for the McLain Flats Road property outside Woody Creek.

The proposal, top-heavy in the most expensive categories of affordable units, doesn’t meet the existing Aspen-Pitkin County Affordable Housing Guidelines for a free-market/affordable development in the affordable housing zone district.

The county’s land-use code doesn’t require a specific affordable housing mix or regulate prices, but the code does call for projects to comply with the Housing Authority’s goals, said county planner Lance Clarke.

According to the Housing Authority guidelines, for the affordable housing mix, at least 40 percent of the units must be category units with an average price that does not exceed the maximum price of a Category 3 unit. In the 2000 guidelines, the top price of a Category 3 single-family home is $164,400.

The guidelines establish prices for affordable housing in four categories and RO, with Category 1 being the cheapest and RO the most expensive. Workers qualify for various categories based on household income and assets.

Lowe’s proposal for primarily Category 4 and RO units could well put the price of most of the proposed housing above $200,000. The maximum allowed price for a Category 4 single-family, detached home is $236,300. The initial sale price for an RO unit is capped at $450,000 for a three- or four-bedroom unit, though the developer may request a special review to increase the price, according to the guidelines.

Aspen and the county established the average-price requirement for affordable housing and set a cap on the previously unregulated price of RO units in 1999. Officials were concerned that much of the affordable housing being built by private developers in combination free-market/affordable housing projects was in the higher-priced categories and out of reach to the vast majority of local workers.

The Lowe W/J proposal will go first to the Housing Board, which will make a recommendation to the county commissioners.

Commissioner Leslie Lamont, who did not seek re-election and will relinquish her seat early next month, said she hopes the Housing Board tells commissioners what mix of affordable units is needed.

Her gut reaction to Lowe W/J’s proposal was: “That’s not what we need.

“From the RO perspective, I think the jury’s been out for quite some time on whether RO fills a need,” she said. “I personally want the Housing Board to tell us, given our inventory, this is what we need, this is where we’re low.

“I think everyone could intuitively agree that when it comes to lower-income units, we don’t have enough,” Lamont added.

Housing Director Mary Roberts is not in the office this week and could not be reached for comment.


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