CASAS works for affordable, sustainable housing, not profit |

CASAS works for affordable, sustainable housing, not profit

FRISCO – More than 10 people attended Frisco’s Town Council meeting Tuesday to show support for Community Action for Sustainable and Affordable Solutions (CASAS) – a not-for-profit organization that submitted a proposal for Frisco’s attainable housing project.

“The town really has a unique opportunity to do something different,” said Andy Held, a Frisco resident and co-owner of art shack.

Frisco received eight proposals this year for its first, multiunit attainable housing project. It’s the town’s second go at the project on its 1.032-acre property at 8th Avenue and Belford Street – just west of Frisco Elementary School.

“We had kind of a rehearsal last year,” said Frisco Mayor Bob Moscatelli. “This year, we’re going to do it right.”

Town officials rejected the first round of bids submitted for the project after realizing their initial Request for Proposals (RFP) outlined a design-build project and implied that Frisco would be owner of the development. The town wants to contribute the land with little to no risk to the town, officials said.

Michelle and Ramon Gabrieloff-Parish, co-founders of CASAS, didn’t intend to submit their own proposal when they first became involved with Frisco’s project. Rather, they hoped to convince Frisco officials to consider not only the affordability of the project, but also to ensure that the housing is energy-efficient and community-oriented, Michelle said. Ideally, the project should be a nonprofit venture.

According to Michelle, town officials said they didn’t have time to look into sustainability and suggested CASAS submit its own proposal.

“So we did,” she said, adding that CASAS’s goal is to see that the project is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and health-conscious for its residents.

CASAS isn’t in the development business. Michelle and Ramon founded the group after they realized “people wanted an outlet that included action as expression.” Michelle said. The group is working to make sustainability become the norm in building practices, among other community projects.

CASAS likely has proposed the most affordable, sustainable housing of the eight bids Frisco received, she said.

According to Frisco’s RFP, at least 60 percent of the units must be affordable to households earning 80 percent or less of the area’s average median income ($72,700 for a family of four), and at least 25 percent of the units to households earning 100 percent or less. The remaining units may be sold or rented at market rates.

CASAS is proposing that all 12 units be built for 60 to 80 percent of the median income, Michelle said. As a not-for-profit group, CASAS also could afford to increase the quality of the homes, raising the bar for affordable housing.

“One of our goals, too, is to create a prototype – a model that people in other communities could use as well,” Michelle said.

“I think it has a chance to be a flagship project and really set the standard,” said Tom Castrigno, a homeowner in the Ophir Mountain affordable housing project. “All the units in our neighborhood are affordable, as opposed to a mix, and that has provided access to home-ownership for an increased number of families.”

But that’s not the only reason Castrigno hopes Frisco officials give CASAS serious consideration for the town’s project.

“Especially in these slow economic times, a proposal such as CASAS – that purchases materials from local companies … and would use local contractors and craftsmen – would really be a big help to Summit County,” he said. “It would also lend a sense of pride and workmanship. This really has a chance to be a good grassroots effort and a total win-win for everyone.”

An evaluation committee, including councilmembers Bernie Zurbriggen and Jon Zdechlik, a neighborhood representative and a member of the Summit Housing Authority, will review the eight proposals in the next two weeks, said Frisco Town Manager Alan Briley. The committee will select three or four of the bidders for interviews the week of April 21. The committee will then narrow the candidates to one or two finalists for the council to interview.

Town officials are hoping to award the project by the May 6 council meeting and break ground by late summer or early fall, Briley said.

Even if Frisco doesn’t choose the CASAS proposal, the group will consider itself successful if the town builds truly affordable and sustainable housing at Belford Place, Michelle said. CASAS members would consider working with a developer to help the town achieve such goals.

“If it doesn’t happen, I think we might pursue doing it somewhere else,” she said, adding that other parties, including one government entity, have expressed interest in their proposal.

More Information

For more information about Community Action for Sustainable and Affordable Solutions, call Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish at (970) 262-9264 or come to a meeting at art shack in Frisco (behind Tuscato) at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday.

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