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July 2, 2012
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Mountain Regional Housing forced to disband

CARBONDALE - A community housing organization that oversaw Garfield County's first affordable housing project in Carbondale and helped facilitate an effort to secure employee housing in Aspen is being disbanded.

Recent funding cuts from the town and difficulties selling deed-restricted housing units with the recent downturn in the real estate market are being cited as reasons for the dissolution of the nonprofit 501(c)(3) Mountain Regional Housing Corp.

"Basically, what we're seeing right now is that prices for deed-restricted housing are not a lot different than market-rate housing," MRHC board president John Baker said.

"We have a situation where it's difficult for people to sell their place," he said. "And people who want to buy are having a hard time getting a mortgage for a deed-restricted house."

Recently, one of the lenders that MRHC worked with to finance sales of deed-restricted units, the USDA's Rural Development Program, announced that it would no longer carry loans on deed-restricted units, according to MRHC Executive Director Janet Rippy.

"Close to 98 percent of our loans have been through them," Rippy said.

The town of Carbondale reduced its funding support for MRHC to $40,000 this year, from $50,000 in past years, she said.

And, with fewer transaction fees supporting the organization due to a lack of sales, MRHC couldn't continue to pay her salary and its office rent at the Third Street Center, she said.

"In this day and age, being in housing business isn't really very lucrative," Rippy said. "Given that and the funding cuts, we just couldn't carry on."

MRHC has been managing the town of Carbondale's community housing program for the past 13 years. The program involves 76 deed-restricted units targeted at households earning between 80 percent and 150 percent of the area median income.

In addition to the income restrictions for purchase, the units carry an annual appreciation cap to maintain affordability over time and must be occupied as a full-time residence by their owners.

The program includes the 60 Thompson Corner units at River Valley Ranch, developed in the late 1990s as the first deed-restricted affordable housing project in Garfield County.

The town now requires a percentage of all new residential developments to be deed-restricted as a way to ensure a stock of below-market housing. An additional 16 units have been added to the town's program over the years, in newer subdivisions and mixed-use developments such as Colorado Place, Lines Plaza and Keator Grove, which MRHC helped develop.

MRHC also facilitated the purchase of the Ullr Commons in Aspen, and converted the former 26-unit lodge into an employee housing rental project.

Last week, the Carbondale Board of Trustees signed an inter-governmental agreement with the Garfield County Housing Authority to administer the town's deed-restricted units in place of MRHC.

The county organization administers several dozen deed-restricted units in unincorporated part of the county, as well as in Glenwood Springs and the county's other municipalities. It also oversees some units in Basalt. The housing authority agreed to oversee Carbondale's units for $28,000 a year.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Jul 2, 2012 06:59AM Published Jul 2, 2012 06:57AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.