Garfield County agencies join forces on affordable housing plan

RIFLE — Four public entities are in the early stages of planning a work force housing project of 200 to 250 units.
Garfield County, the city of Rifle, the Grand River Hospital District and the Re-2 School District are working on the project with the support of the Aspen Community Foundation.

The entities are hoping to develop a mix of rental and for-sale housing, including single-family homes.

Properties would have deed-restricted caps on their annual appreciation and resale prices, and monthly rent would be set under the guidance of the Garfield County Housing Authority.

The housing would be built on about 35 acres owned by the city along U.S. Highway 6&24 and the Hospital Hill Road. The Union Carbide Corp. conveyed the land to the city in 1973 with a deed restriction limiting its use to development of an industrial park “or other exclusive public use as the City of Rifle may determine.”

The city’s initial proposed contribution to the project includes managing it and providing initial cost estimates.

The initial proposal involves the other three entities contributing $1.5 million apiece.

An early estimate of the infrastructure costs of the project came in at just under $13 million.

The project is intended primarily for use by employees of the four governments involved.

“There is a huge demand for affordable housing amongst those four entities,” Garfield County Manager Ed Green said.

However, the entities are considering opening at least a portion of the project to the general work force.
County Commissioner Tresi Houpt said she thinks that’s important to do. She said she understands the needs of the employers involved, but there’s a broader need as well, and she doesn’t want a “huge investment” made for the benefit of a fairly small population.

The entities are interested in pursuing state and federal financing under programs that would require at least a portion of the rental units to be set aside for the general public.

“I think this is a flagship program,” Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown said.

He said he didn’t think many county employees would live there, but it still would be “a very useful tool.”

McCown said the project gets government away from giving lip service to affordable housing and imposing affordability requirements on developers, and instead gets it involved in “putting some houses on the ground.”


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