August 21, 2011
Recently, a member of Aspen City Council suggested to me that Burlingame Phase 2 (B-2) is exactly what the real estate transfer tax was created for – to build affordable housing.
I agree, but with a slight alteration. I believe the RETT was created to fund the affordable housing program – not just build housing.
A week ago, I made a case for going to the public to get their input, specifically let them vote, and if a majority want to build B-2, I would utilize a bond, utilizing low interest rates.
Last week, a few locals posed this question to me, “What would you do with the RETT money?”
First, I still want to know if the voters are in favor of B-2, and if the future job market will create enough “qualified” buyers to meet demand.
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Next, I would work through an alternative use of the funds. And, since I was asked, I have a few specific suggestions we could look at that might be a better way to use $53 million over the next 10 years.
1. Allocate $10 million for joint ventures with existing affordable housing complex’s whose infrastructure is 20 to 30 years old, and in need of repair, which would also bump up their livability. In return, Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority could require the HOA revamp their governance declarations, capital reserve programs, collection policies and overall operations.
2. Allocate funds for a lending program for capital improvements to complexes, contingent on the complex improving the governance items previously listed.
3. Look at the land currently owned by the city, purchased for more than $33 million, and work on a plan to either use it, or sell it.
4. Buy down existing three- and four-bedroom properties currently occupied by a single occupant.
5. Look at existing opportunities valley-wide to purchase properties that are being offered for less than we can build them for.
6. Purchase or JV the recently approved Boomerang property, and convert it into a retiree complex, addressing a major community need.
The opportunities to improve our affordable housing program are limitless if we open our minds, and don’t just take the easy build-baby-build road to re-election. But, that road would take unique leadership – I wonder who might rise to the occasion?