City stands to gain on affordable housing
A high-stakes poker game will be played out tonight, and the question is whether a developer and the city of Glenwood Springs both can walk away winners.Robert Macgregor’s development company is proposing a 120-unit rental project at Glenwood Meadows. The city stands to gain because 84 of the units would be reserved for people of lower income levels. Macgregor isn’t acting solely out of the goodness of his heart. The proposal allows him tap into federal housing funds and tax credits. And it’s also giving him a basis to ask the city for various fee waivers, as well as project concessions such as a waiver on building height and a delay in when a one-acre park would have to be built.Part of tonight’s game involves the usual process of a developer asking for concessions for a desirable proposal, and the city giving as little as possible without killing the deal. But the stakes are higher on this project because the city stands to lose an opportunity to provide badly needed affordable housing so that more of the people who work in Glenwood Springs also can live here.As much as the city has talked about achieving that goal over the years, few opportunities have come along for making substantial strides toward it. This is where having a developer willing to step forward is important. In return, the city must be prepared to let him make a fair profit.Macgregor has indicated there’s little wiggle room left in his proposal, and that if the city doesn’t do much budging, he can’t afford to proceed. But a consultant to the city has concluded the project probably would generate higher profits than Macgregor projects. That leaves more room to negotiate.At the same time, the consultant noted that the city is getting a good deal in being asked to provide only $495,000 in fee waivers for the number of lower-income units being built in return.What looks as if it could be a deal-breaker would be for the city not to agree to a height limit waiver. Being able to build up instead of out is saving an estimated $2 million in what is a $21 million project, Macgregor estimates.The apartments would be built up against Red Mountain, so the additional height shouldn’t be so obtrusive. If council isn’t prepared to budge on height limits, at the very least it should waive the impact fees and park requirement.A better alternative would be to give ground on the height limits and stand firm on requiring the fees and/or park. That would boost the odds of walking away with a valuable affordable housing jackpot.
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