Commissioners don’t commit to funding for C’dale affordable housing project |

Commissioners don’t commit to funding for C’dale affordable housing project

An affordable housing project in Carbondale may not get off the ground without help from local government. The Garfield County Commissioners expressed support of Keator Grove, an affordable housing development in Carbondale, but did not promise financial backing Monday.

Keator Grove, a mix of manufactured single-family homes and condominiums, has gone through a number of hands since it began as Bair Ranch in the late 1990s. The high-density development came under fire from neighbors in Hendrick Ranch and the concept was defeated in an April 2000 referendum.

It’s now being developed by Mountain Regional Housing Corp., which came to the commissioners with hat in hand for funding for the project.

The project sits on 5.64 acres in the center of Carbondale on the south side of Highway 133, next to Hendrick Ranch subdivision.

Prices range from $381,000 for a 1,800-square-foot single-family home to $170,000 for an apartment.

MRHC Executive Director Susan Shirley asked the commissioners for a $50,000 grant and a $450,000 low-interest loan to help launch the project.

The company needs $1.9 million to purchase the land. Total development cost including the land is $15.6 million.

MRHC aims to break ground in March, and said it will take about 12 months to build.

Shirley and MRHC president John Baker went round and round with the commissioners Monday about just how affordable the homes would be. They did not give the commissioners an exact count on how many units will be fully deed restricted.

According to Shirley, some of the homes are deed restricted with a requirement that owners occupy the residences rather than renting them out. In addition, some units also have appreciation caps, which would help retain their affordability when they change hands. For those units, prospective buyers would have to meet certain income requirements to qualify to purchase the home.

The town of Carbondale has approved 52 residential units for the project, including 36 single family homes of two to four bedrooms ranging in size from 1,800 to 1,162 square feet and 16 condos ranging from 800 to 1,245 square feet and two to three bedrooms.

Shirley said Pitkin County has agreed to give the corporation a $450,000 loan and a $450,000 grant.

“We’re trying to make it as affordable as possible,” Baker said.

But the commissioners questioned a lack of clarity in the plan.

“It’s a little difficult to understand our role (if not all of the houses are deed restricted),” said Commissioner Tresi Houpt. “My concern is the high level of free market because I think the goal is not simply to have affordable housing at the front end … but into the future.”

Although MRHC asked the county to commit to purchasing employee units, Commissioner Larry McCown questioned how that could be possible given the requirement that they be owner occupied.

“We’re willing to take a look at any scenario we can to make it work,” Baker said.

“I get the impression there are still a lot of balls up in the air,” with deed restriction, McCown said. “When will you get it nailed down?”

Shirley said that any decisions about deed restrictions and rental versus owner occupied units will not be made until final financing is in place. Financing will determine just how many free market units will be needed to make the project viable.

“We have to reserve the right to have some free market,” she said.

Houpt said she supported the project but expressed reservations.

“I’m very interested in partnering in this. I feel strongly there has to be affordable housing. This is what I’d call attainable,” she said.

Commissioner John Martin also said he supports it but only if “it’s 100 percent affordable.”

Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510

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