Ullr housing sees plenty of support
All systems are apparently a go for the Ullr Lodge to become an employer-sponsored housing project.
In an update to the housing board Wednesday, consultant Katie Updike reported that more than 80 percent of 19 employers at the first Ullr meeting were “very interested” in renting or purchasing a unit for their employees.
“The turnout, considering that this meeting was held over Fourth of July weekend on very short notice, is very encouraging,” Updike said. “The general feeling was, `Why haven’t we done this before?’ “
The diverse employers who filled out the interest surveys shared one overriding mutual concern: how to recruit and retain employees in Aspen’s tight housing market.
They estimated the average cost of training a new employee at $3,122. Other survey responses indicated that 79 percent of employers were not “getting their first choice of employees.” Forty-seven percent of employers believed they were “losing business as a result of not meeting their hiring goals.”
There’s little question that losing money plays a motivating role for employers to get into the employee housing game. But housing board member Jackie Kasabach said a “dramatic change in attitude” is the force that will make conversion of the Ullr a success.
“There’s far more respect for employees than there’s ever been, probably because they don’t have any,” Kasabach remarked. “But seriously, I think there’s a lot more concern about taking care of your employees. There’s an enormous interest in doing what they can to save the community.”
Fellow board member and county Commissioner Mick Ireland agreed that the message of what a vital role housing plays is finally hitting home.
“It’s been pounded away on how important housing is to the community and people are getting it,” he said.
Since this type of cooperative employer-sponsored project is new to Aspen, it may be tricky establishing parameters acceptable to both government entities and employers, noted Updike.
But housing board members assured her the private sector generally believes government involvement is more onerous than is actually the case.
The board indicated a willingness to be flexible on rents charged, specifics of lease termination, and seemed receptive to a shorter “seasonal” occupancy than the standard six months. The authority is putting up some initial financing for the project, to be repaid through rents.
The next meeting on the project will be Aug. 17 at 11:30 a.m. at City Hall.
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