Pitkin County officials agree to seek new sources of affordable housing funding

Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners meet in council chambers on Tuesday.
Carolyn Sackariason/The Aspen Times

A joint meeting Tuesday with elected officials from Aspen and Pitkin County aimed at getting the two councils they represent to agree on a future affordable housing program was not as kumbaya of a while as some had hoped.

Aspen City Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he was disappointed, discouraged and hurt by some commissioners’ comments at a meeting earlier this month in response to the city’s demand that the county lay a funding issue on the November ballot to specifically pay for new affordable housing. .

He referenced Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman’s comments about the city’s 300-plus-unit Lumberyard affordable housing development that is planned across from the airport and is “stuffed…down the throat people “.

“I want to put that on the table and a subject to smooth that over and try to get our issues together,” Hauenstein said. “As a city council, we have set housing as a top priority,…it’s not just a city problem, it’s all of us…but I’m really looking at a kumbaya moment here where we’ve agreed to work together in the same direction.”

Poschman said he apologized if he offended or hurt Hauenstein’s feelings, but that didn’t change his position, based in part on voters he heard about, that the Lumberyard Project would add growth. , would consume environmental resources and could reduce the quality of life of residents. , among other concerns.

He also said he was surprised by the letter from the city asking him to ask voters a question.

“It looked like a taxpayer fundraising request with no real specific request,” Poschman said. “I think I need to figure out who it’s for, where is it going, who’s going to get it, how much is it going to cost, what cost to the community will it be and what other growth will it generate.”

He added that he had problems with the premise of the problem laid out by councilor Rachel Richards, who wrote the letter to the commissioners.

“I know Rachel has various sets of concerns, which have created guardrails for how she wants to move forward,” he said. “I think I have issues with a lot of them and I know it’s a sticky, difficult issue.”

Poschman, who was attending the meeting virtually on Zoom, said he would participate in future conversations about county funding for affordable housing, and would look to the community for alternative solutions and responses because, as he suggested, there is a lot of mistrust. , worry and fear within the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority program, which operates 3,200 restricted-deed housing units.

“I sometimes wonder if APCHA has gotten so big that we’re becoming a corporate town, and I don’t like the smell of that,” he said.

Poschman’s comments drew puzzled looks from council members in the room who asked him to expand on his thought process.

There were times during the meeting when the tension between the two councils was palpable.

Richards asked him a series of questions, all pointing to who he thinks future restricted-act housing should be built for.

“Thanks, Rachel, I think that’s a loaded question as I always expect from you,” he said. “These are tough choices. If the snowplow driver can’t find a way to get housing here and…we can choose and we can provide housing for people we deem essential to maintaining services for our community.

County Commissioner Patti Clapper said she appreciates Poschman’s comments, but prioritizing and defining workers as essential is not a concept the council has discussed.

But she said she was open to working with the city in the future.

“I have always been a supporter of affordable housing and I continue to be ready, willing and able to find a way to fund it,” Clapper said.

The county spends between $1 million and $2 million a year on housing, and that money is generated through the impact fees imposed on the development of the open market.

The city generates tens of millions of dollars annually through real estate transfers and sales taxes and is a major provider of affordable housing in the valley.

The position of some municipal officials is that the municipal government cannot shoulder the burden of addressing the housing shortage and that other jurisdictions must step up their efforts.

Commissioners agreed that they would continue to discuss future sources of funding to fund specific affordable housing programs and projects.

“I feel like there’s been some tension about everyone taking their ball and going in separate directions and I hope that doesn’t happen for us in the future,” said Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury, suggesting that the Board and Commissioners have a retreat on the subject early in the year while her Board grapples with what funding is needed and what specific solutions. “What I would really like to work on with the city in a concerted way is to come together to develop a broader community strategic plan on housing.”

While elected officials agreed that the housing crisis was a priority for their two jurisdictions, they spent an hour discussing the topic on Tuesday, with another hour interviewing candidates for the APCHA board of directors.

Due to the flow of conversation among elected officials and the short duration of the meeting, Pitkin County Community Resilience Officer Ashley Perl refrained from showing a scheduled presentation on the city’s affordable housing programs and projects. county.

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