Aspen Skiing Co.’s latest affordable housing project provides boost at critical time
The Hub at Willits increases company’s housing inventory by 20%
Aspen Skiing Co. officials are counting their lucky stars that they pursued a new affordable housing project despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Skico invested about $18.5 million in The Hub at Willits, a 43-unit affordable housing project in Basalt. It held a grand opening ceremony Thursday.
The project increases the company’s affordable housing inventory by about 20% and ensures it can house roughly 50% of its new hires this winter, Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan said at the ceremony.
Skico voluntarily built the project. It wasn’t mitigation for new growth. Kaplan said Skico is always looking for additional housing opportunities, but isn’t ready to announce anything yet.
The Hub has 150 total bedrooms in five one-bedroom apartments, two two-bedroom units, three with three bedrooms and 33 with four bedrooms. The largest units can be partitioned off to provide privacy among tenants.
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Without the new units, Skico would face a bleak winter trying to attract help. Even with the units, it faces a tough task.
“We have two (candidates) for every bed waiting,” Skico housing project manager Philip Jeffreys said.
The demand for short-term rentals in the Roaring Fork Valley has surged during the pandemic. Residences that used to be available for workers to rent are now going short-term to visitors at much higher rates. What’s left on the long-term rental market is expensive.
“We’ve seen rents increase 30% to 40% this year,” Jeffreys said.
Skico’s goal is to keep rents at 30% of its employees’ salaries. Bedrooms will go from $550 to $675 per month at The Hub.
Of the 43 units, eight are dedicated to child care professionals. The Hub was finished this spring. Skico didn’t need all the remaining 38 units for its employees this summer, so it rented them out on six-month leases that expire by winter.
The units were 88% filled in three days and full within three weeks, Jeffreys said. Tenants include a teacher, a worker from Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and someone with the Transportation Security Administration, so the housing is filling an important need, he said.
Skico officials touted The Hub’s green attributes at the grand opening. There is an 80-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on the roof. Eight cold-climate heat pumps pull heat out of the air and use it to warm the water needed for the apartments. One heat pump is more efficient than a hair dryer, Jeffreys said.
In addition, the building is all electric. The carbon footprint will drop as Holy Cross Energy moves closer to its goal of 100% clean energy in its portfolio by 2030.