Semrau unveils plan to meet housing goal
ASPEN Mayoral candidate Tim Semrau introduced a plan Thursday that he claims would meet Aspen’s goal of housing 60 percent of its work force upvalley within five years. Affordable housing has been a hot-button issue in the mayoral campaign, and meeting the 60 percent housing goal – adopted by the city in 1994 – has been a major push in recent years.In creating his plan, Semrau updated numbers from a 2002 study of Aspen’s affordable housing needs conducted by Denver-based firm, Economic and Planning Systems.Using the same methods as the 2002 study, Semrau crunched the total current affordable housing units and work-force numbers and learned the number of units has increased while the work force has stayed nearly the same over the last few years. Thus, with 2,741 affordable housing units available today, Semrau calculated that only 279 additional units are needed to meet the community’s housing goal. A 2004 study, conducted by Denver-based Clarion Associates, showed different results. That study estimated a countywide deficit of 913 units by 2010. Semrau ignored this study in creating his plan, however, because he didn’t understand the methodology. “I looked at the Clarion study and I’ll be damned if I can figure out how they did their stuff,” Semrau said. “I don’t think it’s possible to do an apples-to-apples study with Clarion. I do believe that’s possible using the EPS study.”In 1985, 73 percent of all Pitkin County employees lived in the county; that number declined to 46 percent in 2000. Clarion projected the figure would go down to 38 percent by 2020.Thus, in 2004, Clarion stated the county needed an additional 1,611 units to house 60 percent of its work force in the upper valley. “Depending on the assumptions you make, those numbers can vary quite a bit,” said Aspen/Pitkin Housing Authority executive director Tom McCabe. “It’s a moving target.”Semrau used city of Aspen budget numbers to plan how 279 units could be built in the next five years. It includes 139 units in phase two and three of Burlingame, 50 units in a Rio Grande/library/Zupancis city project, and 90 units as part of a Buttermilk redevelopment in association with the Aspen Skiing Co. Additional units created by the county affordable housing fund, the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority, mitigation, private affordable housing rezones and nonprofit units would be in addition to the 279 he proposes for the city development program.”For so long we thought this was an unattainable goal,” Semrau said. “The realization that we could actually accomplish this creates a whole new frame of reference.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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