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Aspen Council Considers Killing Workers Housing Option

Aspen City Council is considering eliminating a longtime housing option for local workers. Aspen Public Radio’s Carolyn Sackariason reports.

It’s called the “Accessory Dwelling Unit” program and it’s been around for decades. The idea was that wealthy homeowners would offset their development impacts by building a separate dwelling unit from the main house so a local worker could live there. But it’s a voluntary program and many of them remain empty. At Tuesday’s work session, City Councilman Adam Frisch told his colleagues that the program should be eliminated.

“The main thing is that it’s not working. It’s a great idea in concept. It’s failed and I think that every time we allow an ADU to be built we have actually done a disservice to the community for housing locals”

A city commissioned survey shows that only 39% of these so-called ADUs are occupied. Frisch believes it’s more like 10%, based on comments received during the most recent census.

The idea is to “unwind” the program, and allow homeowners to retire their ADUs and eliminate the deed restriction on their property, giving it greater value. Those who take their ADUs out of the inventory would have to pay a flat fee, which is undetermined. Chris Bendon is Community Development Director for the City of Aspen.

“It’s really centered around this occupancy...that the mitigation option should translate into actually housing people and that ADUs don’t … they house people but not at the rate we feel is justified.”

The ADU program is one of a dozen or so policy changes the city council is considering for mitigation for residential development. The first public hearing on the potential code changes is scheduled for April 27th.

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