Interest light in $1 million-plus Aspen employee homes

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

Million-dollar employee housing

Here’s the updated figures for the size and cost of the four single-family homes to be built at Burlingame Ranch.

Address Total area* Estimated total cost

209 Forge 3,740 square feet $1.254 million

221 Forge 3,742 square feet $1.237 million

500 Paepcke 3,027 square feet $1.157 million

510 Paepcke 3,027 square feet $1.157 million

* Includes garage, deck and unfinished basement

Source: City of Aspen

The Aspen government will move ahead with the construction of four homes at Burlingame Ranch despite a lack of interest in the employee residences that are being advertised for more than $1 million each.

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, as of Tuesday, had received two lottery bids with mortgage prequalification for the single-family homes, which are part of the second phase of development at Burlingame.

The homes would include an unfinished basement that buyers could customize and a first and second floor. Home sizes would range from 2,472 square feet to 2,856 square feet of total heated area. The cost of the homes, originally projected to be $1.3 million, have lowered since the builder, eSopris of Carbondale, lowered its bid.

The bidding period closed Wednesday, and the two bidders will enter the housing lottery Aug. 8. While they are guaranteed to win, they will get the first two cracks on the home sites.

Another bidding period for the two remaining homes will open after the lottery winners choose their homes, said Affordable Housing Project Manager Chris Everson. The four members of City Council at the work session — Councilwoman Ann Mullins was absent — told Assistant Manager Barry Crook and Everson to proceed with the construction of the homes. The construction contract will be presented to City Council at its upcoming Monday meeting. With approval, eSopris can begin to mobilize for construction as early as the following Tuesday, Everson said Wednesday.

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At Tuesday’s meeting, Everson said he expects to see more interest upon the completion of the homes, but “there are no guarantees of that.”

The homes would be sold as resident-occupied, which are intended for residents who can’t qualify for Category housing but don’t have the means to buy a home on Aspen’s free market, where the average price for a single-family home in 2015 was $5.87 million, according to Land Title Guarantee Co.

Housing authority guidelines also stipulate that buyers of resident-occupied homes cannot have assets more than $900,000, which partly explain the lack of interest, Everson and Crook said.

“(We) believe the $900(k) asset limitation is way too low,” Crook said. “It was created 20 or 25 years ago and was never adjusted.”

The housing authority is willing to raise those caps to as high as $2 million or $3 million in time to capture more interest in the Burlingame homes, Crook said.

Another option would be to lower the prices of two of the homes — while the two prequalified bidders would pay the current advertised price — by the city providing subsidies. As it stands, the homes are being sold at cost with no subsidies from the city.

Council members expressed reluctance to subsidize the development.

“I’m a little bit concerned about incentivizing people to wait, to think all of the sudden the houses are going to get cheaper,” Councilman Adam Frisch said.

A member of one the families that prequalified told council that lowering the prices for two other homes “doesn’t seem fair to us. We pay full price.”

Everson and Crook emphasized to the council the homes must be built one way or another on the six undeveloped lots. An additional two would be built at later stage.

Council members urged Crook and Everson to invest more money into advertising the homes for sale. About $500 has been spent on print advertisements, Everson said.

The homes could sit on the market for six months or even a year, Crook said. No matter how long, “I don’t think you should subsidize these homes,” he said.

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