Aspen City Council gave a green light to beginning construction on the Burlingame Phase II affordable housing project in 2013 in a work session on Tuesday.
The project would eventually add 167 units at the site located on former ranch land across Highway 82 from Buttermilk, where about 90 units were built around five years ago. In the past year, a total of 238 people expressed interested in living in the planned new units, 76 of whom became both qualified with the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) and pre-qualified for a mortgage. This year, council moved forward with infrastructure construction on the project.
On Tuesday, council argued in favor of pushing the project forward as soon as possible, because construction costs could go up making it more expensive to build in the future.
“We need to get this thing done,” said Mayor Mick Ireland. “People need to get on with their lives.”
The city’s housing fund, which is supported by revenue from the real estate transfer tax (RETT), sales taxes and proceeds from affordable housing sales, will pay for the project.
The 2013 construction is expected to cost $17.81 million. That will pay for constructing four buildings containing 48 total units, 31 of which have been reserved.
The city’s budget assumes that two of the buildings would be completed and sold by year’s end, resulting in about $4.5 million in total revenue. Meanwhile, construction costs for the $9.3 million in infrastructure work currently being done are expected to come in below budgeted costs by about $220,000.
Chris Everson, the city’s affordable housing project manager, said the city has a backup plan involving borrowing RETT revenues from the Wheeler, which also receives a chunk of the tax, if unit sales come up short and don’t pay for construction costs. In that case the city will take out a short-term loan that would be recovered by the units’ sales in 2014.
“We would be stupid not to have a back up,” Everson said.
Ron Erickson, a member of the APCHA board, closed the meeting noting that the cost of building affordable housing in the county is pretty large compared to what the city asks developers to pay to mitigate for housing. A study that determined the actual cost of building in the county was recently discussed at council with some members calling it too extreme. The study suggested that the current cash-in-lieu fees should be doubled in some cases.
“The cash-in-lieu numbers don’t look so big when you start looking at developing housing,” Erickson said.
In light of the go-ahead signal, staff will begin drafting contracts for the project.