Lift One will prop up worker housing
As we move toward the March 5 vote on the Lift One Corridor Plan, it’s clear that many Aspenites like and support the vision.
Some see the need to replenish Aspen’s diminished lodging base. Many love the idea of moving Lift 1A down to Dean Street and creating a portal that will serve skiers and visitors for generations to come. Hopefully all can see the value in connecting Aspen to Aspen Mountain with a park and public corridor.
However, some are reluctant to support the Lift One Corridor Plan because of the issue of affordable housing.
The city has long required development to provide affordable housing, and that is true with lodging development. However, numerous city councils have recognized the dual community objective of encouraging both lodging development and affordable housing. Aspen needs both.
To promote lodging development, the city decided to cut the amount of up-front affordable housing required. That is because lodges are difficult to build and operate. Over the past 30 years Aspen has lost upward of 1,700 lodge rooms.
But the lodging code is nonetheless designed to support housing development through sales and transfer taxes. The code requires lodges to build a proportion of their affordable housing requirement upfront, and then continue to support affordable-housing development in perpetuity through other taxes. It’s well thought out: Aspen gets new lodging and ongoing support for affordable housing.
This applies to the Lift One Corridor Plan, which will create a strong income stream that the city can use to borrow money and build the affordable housing we need now. Through sales and real estate transfer taxes, Lift One Lodge and Gorsuch Haus will generate in excess of $42 million of funds. This is enough to build more than 165 units of housing for more than 330 people. That’s many more than the hotels will employ.
Nearly everyone who owns a home borrows the money needed to put a roof over their heads. The city can do the same by borrowing money against its ongoing housing tax revenues and build housing at Burlingame phase three and BMC West. As a longtime member of the community, I would be thrilled to see it happen.
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