Roaring Fork Valley renters price sensitive even with affordable housing |

Roaring Fork Valley renters price sensitive even with affordable housing

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Construction workers install part of the walls at the Roaring Fork Apartments in Basalt on Wednesday. The 50 apartments will open in the first quarter of 2017.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

Despite the acute affordable housing shortage in the Roaring Fork Valley, two Basalt projects demonstrate how renters remain price sensitive.

The Willits Seven project, which targets households with some of the highest incomes allowed under Basalt’s guidelines, was relatively slow out of the gates to find renters but is picking up steam.

Slightly more than a third of the 50 apartments have been rented since they became available earlier this spring.

“It’s not fully leased up,” said Tim Belinski, representative of the owner and developer, Mariner Real Estate Management. “We continue to have a lot of interest.”

The Roaring Fork Apartments, which target workers on the lower end of the income spectrum, have 51 households on a waiting list for the 56 units. The project is under construction adjacent to Stubbies bar along Highway 82 in Basalt.

“We do not foresee a problem renting it out,” said Jeff Ryan, vice president of development for RealAmerica LLC.

He said there hasn’t been a marketing effort yet. Awareness is just word-of-mouth.

While comparing the projects is like comparing apples and oranges because of the differences in construction financing, they give an insight on the market demand.

RealAmerica secured nearly $1.1 million in Colorado rental housing tax credits in September. In return, it committed to provide below-market rents.

The tax credits will be sold to reduce RealAmerica’s construction costs.

Under terms of its receipt of tax credits, most of the units at Roaring Fork Apartments must be rented to households that make less than the Area Median Income for western Colorado.

That means RealAmerica must provide six units at 30 percent of AMI, 11 units at 50 percent of AMI and 27 at 60 percent of AMI. The remaining 12 units can be rented at 120 percent of AMI.

The 45 one-bedroom apartments will range in rent from $450 to $1,350 per month. They will be 670 square feet.

The 11 two-bedroom apartments will range from $550 to $1,450 per month in rent.

Mariner built the Willits Seven project to mitigate its affordable housing requirements with the town of Basalt for the Willits Town Center project. It negotiated with the town the ability to charge rents that are between the town’s category 2 and category 3 rates — 120 percent of AMI and higher.

The 26 one bedroom-units at Willits Seven are renting for $1,640 per month while the 22 two-bedroom units go for $1,870 per month. There are two three-bedroom apartments that rent for $1,966 per month.

Each unit has a washer and dryer. The rent includes garbage and water, as well as up to two spaces in the underground parking garage.

Belinski said he expects more units to be rented as the existing leases of some people expire in other housing.

“Absorption takes time,” he said, adding that he anticipates the project to be fully leased by the time school starts this fall.

To put the prices into regional perspective, the median prices of free-market one- and two-bedroom apartments was $1,038 and $1,314 per month, respectively, in Denver in March, according to Apartment List, which tracks rents across the country.

Ryan said the affordability of all units at Roaring Fork Apartments should result in it getting fully leased in a short amount of time.

The company, which builds affordable housing around the country, has a compliance department that will make sure renters quality under income caps.

“As soon as construction is done, we’ll be ready to move people in,” Ryan said. “We still expect to be completed in the first quarter of 2018.”

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