Aspen, Pitkin County officials discuss HOA fee structures
February 6, 2015
Requirements for how much money Aspen's affordable-housing owners put away and a how much is devoted to building maintenance were among the topics the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners discussed Tuesday in a joint work session.
While explaining potential changes that could result in increased monthly dues, Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority chairman Ron Erickson said the situation between the city and Centennial affordable-housing owners activated the issue. Since 2009, the two sides have been in disagreement over $3.2 million in repairs attributed to water intrusion. The Centennial homeowners association credits the damage to inherent structural flaws from when the complex was built in 1985, while the city argues that the owners haven't invested properly in routine maintenance.
Speaking generally about affordable housing across the state, the housing authority's general counsel Tom Smith said there is a trend where 20- and 30-yeard-old condominium projects need major repairs but don't have the reserves to fund them.
Assistant City Manager Barry Crook said he is scheduling a series of meetings with homeowners association presidents, where they will discuss who is responsible for capital improvements and what measures are needed to ensure proper reserves are available. The city will draft a policy proposal from the feedback and deliver it to elected officials for a decision.
Centennial homeowners association president Jason Closic, who did not attend Tuesday's meeting, estimated that his group has about $750,000 in reserves.
"It's affordable housing. What's the appropriate level for capital reserves?" he said. "If it's $10 million, that's probably not affordable anymore."
The changes discussed Tuesday are not final, as both boards will have a chance to review any policy changes the housing authority prepares.
Officials also discussed the potential of requiring new homeowners to take an online test concerning ownership accountability and knowledge. While there was agreement among officials that the idea has value, Commissioner Rachel Richards suggested some flexibility on when prospective homeowners can take the educational course.
A topic that garnered a lot of discussion was the proposal to address homeowners who are unwilling to accept "reasonable" offers when trying to sell their units. As proposed, the housing authority could force a non-compliant homeowner to accept 95 percent of their purchase price if a home has not sold within 180 days of the listing agreement.
Housing authority operations manager Cindy Christensen said there have been issues where seller prices are too high, owners are unwilling to consider anything lower and the units sit empty. Erickson said the problem is not rampant, but the housing authority has run into a couple homeowners who have "gamed" the system for five or six years.
"We've had no leverage to get people out of these properties that they've been violating their deed restriction on," Erickson said. "This is our attempt to get them back into compliance or get that puppy sold to people who need them."
Officials agreed there's an issue, but Richards said the proposed method might need tweaking.
"I personally have to think more about that sale at 95 percent of their purchase price," Richards said. "That's extremely punitive. … This one may need more cooking."
Councilman Adam Frisch said there are people "gaming" the system, clogging up "very dear and expensive space."
"Sometimes these people need a cattle prod to get there," Frisch said.