Garfield County to invest in 2 units at Rifle Habitat project for possible county worker housing
Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky had been leaning toward a $50,000 contribution to Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley’s Wapiti Commons project in Rifle. But an intriguing perk convinced him and his fellow commissioners to up the ante.
Commissioners voted 3-0 to contribute $200,000 to help defray costs to build the 20 new homes, which are to be made available for purchase to qualified buyers earning 80% of the area median income (AMI).
In exchange, two of the units are to be reserved for qualified county government employees to purchase.
Construction has begun on Wapiti Commons in the south Rifle area. The project is to include two condominium units and 10 townhouses in a three-story building, and eight single-level condos designed for older adults.
The homes are being reserved for applicants who already live and work in Rifle, Gail Schwartz, president of the area Habitat organization, said at the Monday Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Currently, the target household income for the houses is $75,000, but the AMI is expected to be adjusted upwards later this year, Schwartz said.
“We are always in a position of losing money when we develop these homes,” she said in making the funding pitch to the commissioners.
“I like the idea of having some entitlement for our employees,” Jankovsky said in leading the motion to approve the $200,000 county contribution. “If what’s going on in the Roaring Fork Valley continues to move west, nobody is going to be able to live in this valley.”
Jankovsky said workforce housing for both the public and private sector is critical to economic development, but the housing market is having a dampening effect.
Rifle Mayor Ed Green said the City Council fully supports the project, and has provided $100,000 in fee waivers to assist in cutting some of the construction costs.
Carolyn Meadowcroft, who handles homeowner services for Habitat, said they initially received 35 applicants in the first round for the Wapiti units but that less than 20 were qualified. A second round of applications will open in September. Among that first round, though, were some county workers, as well as employees of the Rifle schools, animal shelter and library, to name a few, Meadowcroft said.
Commissioner John Martin expressed some skepticism of government support of housing in general but went along with the Habitat contribution. He did request a follow-up report to determine how many buyers decide to sell within one or two years for the small profit that the 3% appreciation cap on the Habitat units allows.
Jankovsky expressed interest in Habitat’s forthcoming project on city-owned land at Eighth and Midland, and said the county may also be interested in participating in that project, as well.
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