Space to Create affordable housing program passes over Carbondale
Though Carbondale wasn’t selected for a program to build affordable housing for so-called creatives, the town is still pursuing the first steps with the help of some state money.
Carbondale’s Town Council agreed to apply for the project in February with hopes that Space to Create, a Colorado Creative Industries project, would inject up to $1 million into housing for people in the creative industries. CCI officially designated Carbondale as a creative district in June 2016.
Space to Create is designed to help deal with a recurring issue with creative districts: that their growing popularity also brings rising costs of living that pushes out the very creatives who define the districts.
In the northwest region, Carbondale was competing with Paonia and Crested Butte, and Space to Create selected Paonia.
“We’ll always take whatever help we can get, but we do realize that for Paonia, because of the closing of the mines and a lot of other issues, this project will be deeply transformational,” said Amy Kimberly, executive director of Carbondale Arts.
“Each of these communities needs the housing. Everyone needs the housing. But it comes down to where the project will be most transformational,” she said. Additionally, the town of Carbondale doesn’t own any lots that would work for this kind of project, whereas Paonia and Crested Butte did.
“Carbondale and Crested Butte have been transforming, and we’ve made our mark in the direction we’re going, whereas Paonia is going from a coal town to a creative district,” said Kimberly.
However, Kimberly said she wants to ensure that Carbondale’s creatives are supported so the town doesn’t lose any more artists to Paonia, what she called “creative displacement.”
And missing out on Space to Create doesn’t mean that Carbondale is out. The town still won a grant from the Department of Local Affairs to move forward with a needs assessment and market study for housing for creatives.
ArtSpace, the nonprofit that develops the Space to Create housing, will still be the organization conducting the needs and market studies, which Kimberly said should start in early December and be finished by spring. When those assessments are finished, a developer who wants to get involved will have access to some really valuable information, she said.
The pair of studies will run about $50,000: $25,000 coming from DOLA, $20,000 from Carbondale and $5,000 from the creative district.
Those qualifying for the affordable housing will not be only for artists but in general for “creatives,” a category that probably fits about 80 percent of the people in the area, said Kimberly. “Everyone from teachers to graphic designers, performers or solar designers.”
Kimberly is also hopeful that the regional affordable housing task force will move forward.
After these studies are done “we will probably be shopping around for potential partners and tax credits and things that can make this a reality,” she said. Colorado Creative Industries “is still being very supporting; we just have to be a little more creative to make it work.”
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Come Tuesday afternoon, the Aspen School District Board of Education has some goals to set. Members will review their draft priorities for the 2021-22 school year and, if all goes according to the agenda, they’ll approve them, too.