Aspen seeks to hike in-lieu affordable housing fees

The City Council already established a development moratorium

Aspen, Colorado (iStock)
Aspen, Colorado (iStock)

Not on my mountain.

Aspen, the Colorado ski resort city that imposed a six-month moratorium on home building last week, is pondering whether to hike fees paid by developers to offset otherwise required affordable housing, the Aspen Times reported. The new rules could in some cases triple the fees.

The moves come as the pandemic pushes buyers to Aspen and many other mountain towns, shrinking the number of available homes and lifting prices. The median sales price in Aspen more than doubled to $7.8 million from $3.4 million between February 2020 and February 2021.

Proponents say the city council is trying to combat speculation and curb the proliferation of short-term rentals. Critics, many of them in the real estate business, argued at last week’s council meeting that it hurts the middle class.

For now, the city charges homeowners fees based on new floor area, meaning they’d pay on only for 1,000 square feet if they replace a 2,000-square-foot home with a 3,000-square-foot one. Under the tweak, they’d have to pay fees on the total amount, meaning that in some cases, the price could triple to about $180,000. The measure appears to target out-of-town buyers and developers, who are more likely to buy up smaller homes to replace with much larger mansions.

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The proposed changes would also eliminate exemptions for basement floor area and areas like garages.

Longtime homeowners and locals would be able to defer fees, which are triggered only when a home is demolished and replaced, not for renovations.

UPDATE: This article has been corrected to note that the moratorium is for six months.

[Aspen Times] — Dennis Lynch