Monday, October 21, 2019

Business owners queue up for affordable housing

“I’ve been waiting for this for years”

by Than Acuff

Posing a unique idea to business owners in Gunnison County at an informational meeting at Bonez on Tuesday, June 11, the town of Crested Butte and Bywater Development contractor Joel Wisian took the next step toward creating workforce affordable housing.

Based on attendance and the energy in the room, the business community liked the idea and it looks to be moving forward.

Town of Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman has been sitting on the idea for a while. When the application process for Phase One of Crested Butte’s affordable housing project Paradise Park opened, response was a bit more tepid than expected.

Based on surveys on affordable housing, the town expected as many as 40 people to enter into the lottery for Phase One of the Paradise Park plan. In the end, 24 applications were turned in for a shot at 15 available units. Based on further research into those applications by the Gunnison Valley Rural Housing Authority, as many as a third of those applications may not make it through the final loan process.

That shortfall cast a shadow on the additional 10 units that would be offered in Phase Two, slated to break ground this summer as well. That’s when Yerman pitched his idea to the Crested Butte Town Council on how to sell those 10 units in Phase Two.

The idea, supported by Paradise Park developer Wisian of Bywater, is to offer the 10 units to the Gunnison County business community for purchase. The council agreed and Yerman, Wisian and Ashley Upchurch of the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce then held an informational meeting at Bonez open to the business community to present it.

Business owners from painting companies, property management companies and restaurants to members of the non-profit sector showed up and, for all intents and purposes, seemed to take to the idea.

The 10 units, available in two triplexes and two duplexes, would be for sale to members of the business community who meet a certain number of criteria, which include a business whose address is located within Gunnison County, whose business employs employees within Gunnison County and/or whose business taxes are paid within Gunnison County.

Those in attendance posed a variety of questions to Wisian and Yerman. Would there be homeowner’s dues? Who would plow? What about parking? While the business would be tasked with renting the unit to their employees, could it actually be in someone else’s name?

In the end they liked what they heard. No, there are no homeowner’s dues. The town would contract out the plowing and the cost would be split up between the 20 people renting and would be included in their water bill. There’s enough room for four parking spaces per duplex unit and six spaces per each triplex unit. And, actually, the unit purchased can be in someone else’s name.

“Can you get solar on them?” asked PR Property Management owner Greg Wiggins.

“Yes, as long as it’s approved by BOZAR,” answered Wisian. “They’d be a good fit for that.”

That expense would be on the homeowner, though. Other changes to the pre-approved unit plans are heavily discouraged as the price point of the units, between $221,582 for a one-bedroom and $331,869 for a three-bedroom, is based upon how they are designed and already approved.

“There’s a little flexibility,” added Wisian. “With 10 percent down needed in Phase Two, there’s a little more buy in so I can work a little bit on changes with the homeowner.”

Yerman estimates the rent to come in between $550 and $750 per room but that it ultimately depends on the owner and their loan.

Wisian went on to describe the construction of the units and noted the price includes a full set of appliances.

The businesses would then be responsible for renting those units to their employees. Otherwise, they could rent them to anyone who meets the rental deed-restricted rules. In addition, rental contracts can be for no less than six months and units cannot be vacant any longer than three months.

“When’s the lottery open on this?” asked Christie Hicks, executive director for Crested Butte Nordic.

“These are for sale today,” responded Wisian.

“When will they be ready?” Hicks then asked.

According to Wisian, if the units sell and developers can break ground by July, they should all have the certificates of occupancy between April and June of next year.

About the only hindrance to the plan seems to be the timeline as Yerman and Wisian are looking for commitments from businesses now.

“We have until July to know businesses are interested or we’re not going to build them this year,” said Yerman. “But, I think we’re going to sell them.”

“I’ve been waiting for something like this for years,” said owner of the Secret Stash and Bonez restaurants Kyleena Falzone. “I’m constantly struggling with housing for my employees. I’ve lost too many great people because they can’t afford to stay in the valley.”

For more information and images of the units for sale go to bywatercolorado.com/homes-for-businesses-to-purchase.

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