A welcome victory for the housing program
We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) in the housing authority’s case against Amanda Tucker, a local anesthesiologist whose income and land holdings well exceeded what was allowed for her unit at Aspen Highlands Village.
Tucker was sued by APCHA more than two years ago when public records revealed that she owned property in Hawaii valued at $10 million. Tucker paid $179,000 for her category 3 housing unit in 2005, at a foreclosure auction.
Since the unit was purchased in foreclosure, Tucker was not initially required to go through the usual qualification screening, which includes an annual income cap of $91,000 and $150,000 in allowable net assets. When asked by APCHA to submit proof of her qualifications, none was forthcoming, which led to the lawsuit.
We applaud APCHA for closing this potential loophole with a policy change; in the future the authority will purchase affordable units in foreclosure and return them to the lottery pool.
It is unfortunate that the housing authority has had to almost triple its legal-affairs budget in order to pursue cases of affordable-housing abuse, but we feel it is money well spent. APCHA recently won a case against a California couple who were using an employee unit as an entertainment center. Several other cases are pending that each have the potential to inflict considerable harm to the housing program, according to the authority’s attorney, and perhaps bring it to a crashing halt.
In 2000, the Colorado Supreme Court made a landmark decision saying the municipalities could not impose rent control on private property. Now known as “the Telluride defense,” this ruling is being used to challenge Aspen’s housing program and guidelines.
Fortunately, our local deed restrictions so far have trumped the Telluride decision in the courts, and officials believe the for-sale component of the housing program is currently not in jeopardy. The guidelines for rental units, however, are not so safe.
As the wheels of progress grind slowly through the courts, a continuing and zealous defense ultimately will benefit Aspen residents, both those who live in the housing provided under the program and those who need a strong local workforce for their businesses.
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The city of Aspen is supposed to break ground on 300-plus housing units in 2024 but if Monday’s meeting with elected officials is any indication, the project could take years before coming online.