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Locals dream of winning a chance to buy a home in the first Snowmass Village housing lottery of 2023

Kevin Jordan leans over to place his lottery tickets in a golden hopper that turns with a large handle on the side.
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
Kevin Jordan places his lottery tickets, which are separated into a couple of film canisters, into a golden hopper at the Town of Snowmass Village’s housing office on Jan. 3. Housing staff will draw names from the hopper to see who gets a chance to purchase a deed-restricted, single family home at 83 Maverick Circle.

The Town of Snowmass Village operates a lottery system to determine who can purchase homes in its highly competitive, deed-restricted, workforce housing program.

Separate from the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA), the Town of Snowmass Village manages about 200 deed-restricted units that employees can purchase.

In this year’s first drawing, a handful of local business owners and employees were vying for a four-bedroom unit behind the Snowmass Village Recreation Center in The Crossings neighborhood.

Each applicant receives a different number of entries for the lottery based on a number of factors, including how long they’ve worked in Snowmass.

The deed-restricted house available on Tuesday was at 83 Maverick Circle.

It’s a single family home selling for about $623,392.

Betsy Crum leans over the table of lottery tickets at the Snowmass Village Housing Office. A large pad of paper is tacked up in the background so she can write down the names of the winners.
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
Betsy Crum organizes the lottery tickets at the Town of Snowmass Village housing office before the drawing on Jan. 3. The winner will get the chance to purchase a four-bedroom house in Snowmass for a fraction of the average free market price.

Betsy Crum is the housing director for the Town of Snowmass Village.

“It’s a two story, four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home that was built around 1990,” Crum said. “It's beautiful. It's got a yard. It's a single-family detached home, about 2,400 square feet, fireplace, and everything's updated. It's kind of like the Mister Rogers neighborhood a little bit.”

It’s one of the more expensive units in the lottery but pales in comparison to the free market prices for similar properties, which are listed for about $5-to-$6 million in the adjacent free-market neighborhood, Horse Ranch.

Applicants could only qualify if their annual household income is less than $346,308, and if their net worth is less than $535,455.

That means whoever wins the lottery gets a chance to live and work in one of the most expensive ski towns in the country without being a millionaire.

Julia Debacker and her family live in an APCHA housing unit in Aspen. She showed up to the housing office with three of her kids to hear the results and was feeling nervous and hopeful.

“We really need this,” Debacker said. “We need it badly. We're just hoping and praying, and we're just going to trust that if it's God's will, we'll finally win it because we really need it.”

Diner employees and owner pose for the camera behind the bar at the Daly Diner
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
Michael Miale, left, Heather Huber, and Mau Gonzalez work at the Daly Diner on the morning of Dec. 2, 2022. Huber is a partial owner of the restaurant and entered the lottery on Tuesday to try and win a four-bedroom house in the Town of Snowmass Village.

Heather Huber is one of the lottery participants, but she did not attend the drawing virtually or in-person.

She was at the Daly Diner, one of the two local restaurants where she’s a partial owner.

Huber, like many people living in the area, has lived in a number of different units since moving to the Roaring Fork Valley.

“When I first got here, I lived out in Redstone,” Huber said. “That was a while ago. I actually had a cabin up on Medicine Bow at the very top, and it was owned by longtime locals. Then, I actually moved into a studio at Mountain View.”

But now, single with three kids, Huber is renting a two-bedroom, deed-restricted apartment at 250 Carriage Way, across the street from the Snowmass Ski Area’s Base Village.

It’s also known by some of its residents as the ‘green ghetto.’

But with the size of her family, she’s hoping to move into a bigger house nearby.

“So I have a seven, four, and two-year-old,” Huber said. “And my two oldest are girls. I really think we could just use two more bathrooms, and we would be fine. Just with toys and everything, it's tight.”

The extra space in the four-bedroom would mean that Huber and her family could continue to live where she works, near her affordable restaurant that serves year-round residents.

“I think the restaurant business is awesome, but it's also being a part of the community,” Huber said. “You know I feel like we’re a huge part of the community .

Huber put her name in for a couple of other units last year that she didn’t get, and she had mixed feelings about losing those units.

“It's just a huge letdown, you know?,” Huber said. “But it's tough because then you see, like, there's a family right now going for different houses who have six children. So I sit there with my three kids thinking like, I need this so bad. And it reminds you that, ‘Hey, it's not easy for anyone.’”

Screen Shot 2023-01-05 at 10.08.04 PM.png
Pitkin County Assessor
The house at 83 Maverick Circle has four bedrooms, a fireplace, and a yard. It’s located up the hill behind the Snowmass Village Recreation Center.

Housing Director Betsy Crum understands the struggle to secure housing better than anyone.

“I'm probably the biggest housing geek you'll ever meet,” Crum said.

Crum knew what she wanted to do from an early age: end homelessness.

“One of the key legs of the stool in trying to end homelessness is housing,” Crum said.

She moved to Snowmass in 2018 to work as the town’s housing director and got involved in a homeless stability coalition in Aspen.

The concept of home is powerful to her.

“When I was a young child, my father had MS, and he wasn't able to work,” Crum said. “We lost our home. And we got another home, but it was sort of the start of a feeling. If you don't have a home, it's very hard to do anything else. It's hard to get ready for work in the morning. It's hard to make it to school. It’s hard to have a friend over.”

Part of her job in the housing office is to conduct these lotteries, so Crum gets to see employees win after waiting for years.

But she also watches families try to win the lottery to no avail.

She said it’s hard to know that a lot of units in the Town of Snowmass are vacant half the time since they’re people’s second homes.

“My social justice side would love to see people being able to use units for housing,” Crum said. “On the other hand, my sort of realistic, capitalist side says, ‘You know, people have the right to choose what to do with the homes that they own.’”

Crum is working to develop more housing and meet the needs of the workforce.

And while there are 13 families entered to purchase this particular four-bedroom house, there are hundreds of people waiting for rental units.

“Often when people ask me how many are on the list, I'll say to them, ‘Really, the question you have to ask is “How long do you have to work here before your name will be next on the list?’’’” Crum said. “And it's somewhere around 5 to 6 years.”

The town’s next building project will be behind town hall and will include 60 to 75 units, mostly for rent, to address that backlog of employees.

Crum said the system is designed so that affordable rentals allow people to save enough money so they can buy a deed-restricted unit, and then they can build enough equity to enter the free market.

But since COVID-19 and the explosion of housing prices in the Roaring Fork Valley, that final push into the free market is less attainable.

Matt and Ji embrace near a beach off the Pacific Coast Highway south of San Francisco in California
Matt Pine
Courtesy Photo
Matt, left, and Ji Pine hug each other on a beach off the Pacific Coast Highway in California. On Jan. 3, they won a TOSV lottery and will purchase a four-bedroom, deed-restricted home on 83 Maverick Circle.

Matt and Ji Pine won the lottery for the property at 83 Maverick Circle.

They own Ajax Supply, a hardware store in the same building as Huber’s restaurants, and they have two kids.

After their win, Matt Pine’s smile was glowing.

“I mean, it's amazing,” Pine said. “I mean, one ridge over, it'd be, what, a $2.4 million house? It's just kind of amazing that normal people get to have that experience.”

And while Huber was disappointed, she was happy that her friends got the unit.

“I was pretty bummed at first, but the Pines are cool, too,” Huber said. “Like, they're awesome. They definitely deserve it. And then another spot will be opening up, you know?”

But Huber knows there’s an end to how optimistic she can be.

“You know it’s hard,” Huber said. “You feel defeated, like, you could be here forever. Eventually if we don't get something, I'm not going to have these guys be, like, in teenage years living in that apartment. We will close the restaurants and move at that point if we can't get some sort of love.”

Huber has her eye on a few deed-restricted units outside of Snowmass and will continue to put her name in the hat for the Snowmass housing lottery.

Housing Director Crum says the Snowmass system is ahead of the curve in a lot of ways compared to other ski towns.

And she’s hopeful that they can eventually award housing to people like Huber if they can hold out long enough.

The next housing lottery in Snowmass for a 2-bedroom unit is scheduled for Jan. 6.

Halle is an award-winning journalist and the All Things Considered anchor for Aspen Public Radio. She has been recognized for her work by the Public Media Journalists Association and the Colorado Broadcasters Association. Before she began working full-time with Aspen Public Radio in September 2021, Halle was a freelance broadcast journalist for both Aspen Public Radio and KDNK. Halle studied environmental analysis at Pitzer College. She was an educator at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and at the Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment program, where she taught youth radio and managed a weekly public affairs show.