Stillwater worker housing attracts 419 bids
A huge disparity in prices generated a huge disparity in interest in the one-bedroom condos at Stillwater Ranch, a new worker housing complex that will be sold through a lottery Monday.Bids from prospective buyers were due Wednesday afternoon at the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority. The 13 units attracted a total of 419 bids, including 166 bids from local workers hoping for a shot at the one-bedroom units priced at $137,300.But another, identical one-bedroom unit priced at a daunting $319,800 attracted just 27 potential buyers.”I didn’t figure we’d get that many,” said Cindy Christensen, housing operations manager for the Housing Authority.Stillwater is a Pitkin County project. The ranch-style collection of townhomes is located just east of Aspen above the Roaring Fork River. It includes four one-bedroom units and nine three-bedroom units.The bid total doesn’t mean 419 individuals or couples are vying for a chance to buy a unit; some people bid on multiple units. All of the bidders must qualify as full-time workers in Pitkin County.Christensen said she expected 100 or so bids on the one-bedrooms, with the exception of the priciest one. The sole Category 2 one-bedroom, priced at $89,200, attracted 111 bids, while two Category 3 one-bedrooms, each priced at $137,300, attracted 166 bids total. Bidders in the drawing for the Category 5 one-bedroom have the best odds of winning, since there are just 27 of them.Stillwater also includes five three-bedroom, two-bathroom units priced at $275,500 (Category 4) and four three-bedroom, two-bath units priced at $369,300 (Category 5). There are 74 and 41 bids, respectively, for the family-style townhomes.One-bedroom units typically see the greatest demand, as evidenced by lottery participation. Single individuals are generally limited to studios or one-bedrooms; couples often bid on one-bedrooms, as well, though a couple or a parent with a child can bid on a two-bedroom unit (one person per bedroom).But the Category 5 price for a one-bedroom, which is higher than the price of a Category 4 three-bedroom, was apparently a stumbling block for many buyers.Commissioner Jack Hatfield said he opposed the higher prices when commissioners set the price of the units.”Because housing is in such short supply, I believe we ought to be focusing on Categories one through four,” he said. “This is ‘affordable’ housing.”On the other hand, some prospective buyers who are bidding in Category 5 can’t try for the lower-priced units because their income and assets are too high, Christensen said.”It was expressed to us that there was a need for it. There are people in that category who work in Aspen on a daily basis and should be able to live there, who can’t afford the free market and can’t buy the lower categories because they have too many assets,” Commissioner Dorothea Farris said. “We decided to give it a whirl.”Stillwater is the first project to make use of any of the new Categories 5-7, which sell for higher prices that correspond to higher income/asset caps for buyers. Selling units in the higher categories also reduces the subsidy a developer – in this case the county – must put into a project.Worker housing prices start at Category 1 at the low end and hit Category 7 at the top end. Beyond Category 7 is the RO (resident occupied) category, where privately developed worker housing has hit the $1 million mark.”I think they [commissioners] really felt they needed to try a Category 5 one-bedroom to see what would happen,” Christensen said.”We wanted to know if there was a market for Category 5,” Commissioner Mick Ireland confirmed. The county also wanted to keep its subsidy for the project – about $1.2 million – in check, he said.There were likely to be willing takers regardless of the price, Hatfield noted.”I really feel the main issue is supply, not demand,” he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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