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Aspen Starts "Cap-And-Trade" Program For Affordable Housing

Aspen is rolling out an innovative "cap and trade"-style system to encourage developers to build more affordable housing units without forcibly requiring them to do so. In this scheme, a developer gets a certain amount of credits depending on how much affordable housing units they build, which they can then sell to developers who can't or don't want to build such units but need the credits to meet their affordable housing requirements. So far only one developer, Peter Fornell, has taken advantage of the credits, getting fourteen for the eight-unit building he built on Second Street and Hyman Avenue. He's since sold 6.5 credits to Mark Hunt's project at the site of the former Gap building at Hopkins & Galena at $250,000 a pop, as well as to two smaller projects. Fornell, who advocated for the development of the program, says it won't really take off until the city raises the cash-in-lieu fees it charges developers who don't build affordable housing units. Those stand at about $237,000 for a "category 2" worker making up to $54K/year, which the city estimates is the cost of building housing for that worker.

Another project that may qualify for the Aspen program is the Boomerang project at the base of Aspen Mountain's old Lift 1A double chair. Developers there switched their plans to focus on building affordable housing units, hoping the nab the 80 credits they would gather under the new program. The project survived a lawsuit by its neighbors, but the Aspen Daily News says an appeal may be pending.

· First housing credits sold on open market [Aspen Daily News]

[Photo is by Chris Council via Aspen Daily News]