A proposal to construct a 27-unit development on eight acres adjacent Basalt High School would be the biggest project in the history of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
It also covers new conceptual ground.
According to the Scott Gilbert, Basalt Vista would almost double the number of residential units Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley (HFHRFV) has built.
“In the past 17 years, we have constructed 29 homes,” said Gilbert, president of HFHRFV. “Basalt Vista is a significant undertaking for us. It is stressing our capacity.”
Gilbert feels the project is well worth whatever heartburn it may cause.
Basalt Vista, which has been in the conceptual works since 2015, will, if approved, consist of nine duplexes and three triplexes. Fifteen of the units would be reserved for teachers employed by the Roaring Fork School District. The remaining 12 units would be made available to other workers in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Those who wish to purchase units would have to enter a lottery, the details of which have yet to be established.
“Our previous projects have targeted people on the lower end of the economic spectrum,” Gilbert said. “This is our first effort primarily focused on a specific job and an income level higher than about 60 percent of the median income.”
Gilbert said he decided to pursue a project of this magnitude and specificity because he personally has a background in teaching.
“My daughter is also a teacher in Denver, and I know how hard it is for teachers to get adequate housing,” he said. “Basalt is located in a tough spot for teachers. Teachers who live in Parachute and Silt are more likely to work in Glenwood Springs. They are not as likely to drive all the way to Basalt.”
Gilbert proposed partnering with the Roaring Fork School District and Pitkin County government to develop Basalt Vista.
“The school district had the land, which is valued at about $3.2 million, and the county had the money — about $2.75 million — to support affordable housing,” Gilbert said. “I met first with Mike Scanlon when he was still town manager of Basalt, and then with county manager Jon Peacock. It has been a good partnership.
“The advantage we have as a non-profit entity is that, unlike private-sector developers who have to figure out how to make money off housing projects, we focus on how to make it work so an owner can afford to buy a home,” Gilbert continued. “We lose money on every home we build. The private sector cannot work that way.”
The budget for Basalt Vista, according to data contained in a PowerPoint presentation Gilbert made Tuesday in Denver to the Colorado Educator Housing Project, will total about $15.7 million (including the land donated from the Roaring Fork School District) — which comes out to about $581,000 per unit.
The budget includes about $900,000 for design, engineering and tap fees; $3 million for infrastructure, such as utilities and roads; and $8.6 million for the actual home construction.
Financing sources include the donated land and the subsidy from Pitkin County, a $1.75 million subsidy from HFHRFV and $8 million from projected home sales.
The residences will range in size from 1,200-1,600 square feet. There will be 2, 3 and 4-bedroom models. Cost for the units is projected to run between $245,000 and $345,000.
“By the time we get to the starting line, we will have spent over $500,000 on things like design and architectural plans,” Gilbert said. “This is a project that comes with no risk to the school district.”
Basalt Vista, according to a legal notice placed in area newspapers Tuesday, may also include a small park and facilities to house Basalt’s Recreation Department, which is currently operating out of temporary office space.
Though Gilbert has taken the Basalt Vista project through the sketch plan phase of the permitting process, there are still numerous bureaucratic hoops that need to be jumped through before dirt can be turned.
Later this month, the Basalt Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on Basalt Vista. Once — if — the project gains P&Z approval, the Basalt Town Council, which has the final say, will begin to examine the project.
Gilbert hopes to begin construction as early as possible next spring, weather permitting. And he hopes to have units ready for occupancy by 2021 or 2022.
In the meantime, there are administrative issues that need to be addressed. In addition to determine lottery procedures, ownership issues must be resolved.
The units, according to Gilbert, will all be deed restricted — an equity reality that gets complicated when you factor in potential resale.
There is also the tricky aspect of what happens to the units once an owner retires or moves to a different job.
“We understand that these units will be people’s homes,” Gilbert said. “People may end up living in them for many years. But we want to avoid the pitfalls of Aspen housing, where you have wealthy retirees living in affordable housing. We want this project to remain affordable workforce housing. This is a very confounding issue. It’s your home. You bought it. But if you change circumstances outside the intended use, you need to sell it.
“There is an affordable housing crisis throughout the valley and I understand it effects everyone, but it especially effects teachers,” Gilbert continued. “Few people do anything of higher value than teachers. Teachers help create the core of the community.”
Basalt Vista is not the only mega-project HFHRFV has going. It is also in the midst of constructing an $8 million ReStore between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.
HFHRFV employs 35 people and has an annual operating budget of about $4 million, according to Gilbert.
It raises funds from sales at its ReStore, monetary grants and donations, fundraising events and procuring building materials at a highly discounted rate.