Truscott: lights are on, but no one’s home | AspenTimes.com

Truscott: lights are on, but no one’s home

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A handful of new affordable housing units at Truscott Place are apparently not affordable enough to entice local workers into signing a lease.

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has had no luck renting most of the Category 3 studio apartments that have been available for a month or more at the newly expanded housing complex next to the city golf course.

Only one of the eight studios priced at $964 a month (including utilities) have been rented so far, according to Bruce Nethery, director of property management for the housing authority.

A couple of new Category 3 one-bedroom units, priced at $1,076 per month with utilities, also remain available, he said.

?I have already told the City Council we may have trouble renting them,? said Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.

If they remain empty next month, Sadler said he will present some options to the council to get the units filled, whether it?s dropping the rent slightly or reclassifying the apartments as Category 2 units, which would reduce the rent substantially.

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?We can?t afford to leave them empty. Some money is better than no money,? Sadler said. ?We?ll have to do something.?

The housing authority?s deed-restricted housing is classified by category; each category has maximum income levels for renters and buyers, as well as maximum rental and sale prices.

The new Category 2 units at Truscott were snapped up quickly, according to Nethery. The Category 2 studios rent for $645.

Construction of 99 additional units at Truscott Place is currently wrapping up. Phase I of the expansion, which is finished, included 58 rental units in a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Originally, the plan was to price all of the Phase I units at the Category 3 level, but the city concluded there was demand for some cheaper, Category 2 housing. When a lawsuit challenging the city?s real estate transfer taxes (a significant source of housing funds) was dropped, the council decided it could afford a greater subsidy at Truscott and designated half of the Phase 1 units as Category 2, according to Sadler.

The move reduced rental income from the project by roughly $64,800 annually, he said.

The Category 3 studios are cheaper than what is available on the free market these days, but not by much, a glance at local classified ads indicates.

A furnished studio at Hunter Creek was advertised for $1,000 a month, including utilities, this week, for example. Another studio, at an undisclosed address, was offered for $1,150 and included access to a pool, tennis facility and Jacuzzi.

It may not be the price of the Truscott studios, however, that is making them unattractive to prospective renters, Sadler reasoned. The maximum allowed income for an individual seeking a Category 3 rental unit is $68,100.

?If you?re making that much money, isn?t it time you want something more than your living room being your bedroom?? he said.

Additional housing options at Truscott will become available in a little more than a week, when Phase II of the expansion ? 41 more units ? is ready for occupancy.

?We?ve had like 40-plus applications to date for Phase II,? Nethery said.

The construction of Phase II, as well as renovation of existing Truscott units in the 200 and 300 buildings, was partially financed through low-income housing tax credits, which means income limits established by the Colorado Housing Finance Authority will be imposed on the units. Housing authority categories will not apply.

Applicants for the Phase II units and renters in the 200 and 300 buildings must qualify under the Colorado Housing guidelines. There are currently 21 open units in the 200 and 300 buildings, Nethery said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]