Village toughens restrictions on affordable housing |

Village toughens restrictions on affordable housing

Sarah S. Chung

The Snowmass Village Town Council tightened up its affordable housing guidelines Monday by lowering both the maximum income and asset guidelines.

Prompted by complaints that people who can afford free-market homes are qualifying for employee housing, the council approved the stricter rules during its regular meeting Monday night.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, the maximum income cap for buying an employee unit was 56 percent of the purchase price; the maximum asset limitation was 136 percent of the purchase price.

On the highest valued employee housing unit (a $450,000 home), the allowable income was $252,000 and the joint household income could be as high as $594,000.

Council members decided that a couple with an income well over a half-million dollars can afford to buy a home without help from the city’s coffers. So they voted to lower the income cap to 50 percent of the purchase price and lowered the asset ceiling to 132 percent of the purchase price.

However, council members said they don’t want to penalize anyone for sound financial planning, and decided exempt retirement funds, such as pensions or IRAs, from being considered assets.

“People at 52 should have some assets,” said Councilman Jack Hatfield. “I don’t want to disqualify people for being successful or planning for the future.”

In addition, the council also voted to put restrictions on 24 homes at the Crossings, in an effort to keep people from selling their free-market homes and moving into the affordable housing development.

Before Monday, two-dozen homes in the Crossings’ neighborhood were the only deed-restricted units in Snowmass Village not subject to income and asset restrictions. The exemption was a condition of the project’s approval in 1995. At the time, the developer wasn’t sure there would be enough interest in the single-family units.

But during the original Crossings’ lottery and the subsequent resale of the units there has been plenty of interest and applicants have had to be turned away.

More compelling to the council, however, was testimony that several owners had sold free-market homes before moving into the Crossings’ neighborhood, putting a nice profit in the bank.

“I just want to close off employee housing to people with a $1 million home paid off entirely and a bunch of money in the bank, thinking this is the best way to get a vacation home and retire early,” said Councilman Doug Mercatoris.

The council left untouched the requirement that 80 percent of an employee’s income must be earned in Pitkin County, dubbed the “anti-trust funder clause.” Mercatoris said that several would-be applicants have been turned away on this condition alone.

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