Saturday, August 17, 2019

New idea emerges for phase two of Paradise Park

Business ownership to be explored at June 11 gathering

by Than Acuff

With the application period closed and the lottery set for June 20 for phase one of the Paradise Park affordable housing project, things are a bit in flux with the planned phase two as fewer qualified applicants came forward than expected. Fortunately, the town has an idea and the council agreed to let staff explore that unique plan in the coming weeks.

Phase one of the project is on Gothic Avenue adjacent to Rainbow Park and has a total of 15 units available. Six units are offered to individuals or families that are in the 120-percent Adjusted Median Income (AMI), or earn $38,000 per year. Nine units are available to folks in the 200-percent AMI earning at least $100,000 per year. The pre-built units range in price from $197,800 to $397,800.

The town conducted a survey of interested applicants ahead of initiating the phase one lottery. Based on the survey, the town expected at least 40 applicants but, in the end, only received 24 applications during the process. The Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA) conducted a review of their financial qualifications and deemed as many as one third of the applicants may struggle to qualify for a loan to build.

That reality, and the fact that additional affordable housing projects in the north end of the valley are set to come online this summer, have the town reconsidering whether or not to push through with phase two on the heels of phase one. Phase two is planned to be ten units.

“We’re a little concerned about moving forward,” town community development coordinator Michael Yerman told the council at their meeting Monday, June 3.

The lottery for phase one will be on June 20. Once the winners are announced, the plan will move forward as hoped.

“I do feel like we will sell out phase one,” said Yerman while knocking on wood.

That still leaves phase two in flux though and Yerman and the staff offered the council an idea on how to sell the additional 10 units in phase two. Phase two is on blocks 79-80 near the recreation path between Teocalli and Butte Avenue.

In a memo to the town council, the staff suggested the town “explore an employer rental strategy on some or all of phase two.” The memo cites other potential affordable housing projects starting up this summer including six units in Stallion Park and 22 units that may come online in the Homestead development in Mt. Crested Butte. The memo continues, “We recommend delaying and/or repositioning phase two.”

Yerman then further explained the idea of repositioning phase two.

“Take the month of June to reach out to the business community to see if they want to get in,” said Yerman at the council meeting.

The idea is to find businesses that may want to purchase units in phase two and utilize them as employee housing. Yerman went on to explain some requirements of the businesses including that the “Gunnison County Employer would be defined as a business whose business address is located within Gunnison County, whose business employs employees within Gunnison County and/or whose business taxes are paid within Gunnison County.”

The outreach includes an open house meeting with the business community presented by the Town of Crested Butte, the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce and Bywater Development which is the contractor building the Paradise Park project.

“We’re serving beer at it so that always helps,” said Yerman.

“I really like what Michael [Yerman] is suggesting about the business community,” said council member Will Dujardin.

The meeting, open to Gunnison County employers, will be held at Bonez in Crested Butte Tuesday, June 11 from 4-7 p.m.

“It’s not a real estate deal, it’s a sustainable deal for businesses,” explained Yerman the day after the council meeting.

If this idea doesn’t gain traction, all is still not lost as affordable housing funding options are now available at the state level thanks to a recent set of laws signed by Governor Jared Polis.

“We may be able to tap some funds to help buy down the initial purchase prices,” said town manager Dara MacDonald, which would help general homeowners with affodability in absence of business owner interest. That option would take time though and delay phase two of the Paradise Park project.

Based on what they heard, the council directed the staff to offer 10 units in phase two to the business community.

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