Affordable housing under scrutiny
A front-page article in Tuesday’s Aspen Times reported on Elizabeth Milias’ comments before the City Council on the lawsuit brought by Burlingame I’s homeowners association.
It appears that Milias’ concern was the City Council members’ unfamiliarity with the suit. She seemed to consider that a failure of communication within City Hall. The mayor is quoted as dismissing the significance of the suit. He explained the homeowners’ association’s suing the city as a mere formality. He asserted that the real dispute is among the homeowners association, the general contractor and the producer of siding used in construction.
Why the homeowners’ association sued the city is the homeowners’ association’s lawyer’s business. It is not the point, however.
There are at least two important points. Ms. Milias made one, i.e, that the City Council might not be exercising proper oversight of the city’s liability exposure. The second important point this situation highlights is that there are unintended negative consequences from the city’s persisting in its role as real estate developer of affordable-housing projects. It should be no surprise when more unintended consequences appear.
In fact, this is the second significant event in this regard within two weeks. The last one was the kerfuffle over the city’s ill-conceived reform of the accessory-dwelling-unit and cash-in-lieu programs. That one revealed the city’s struggle to keep the affordable-housing juggernaut sailing against headwinds of economic reality.
This city is committed to helping local workers enjoy housing at affordable prices. That is a reasonable policy direction. But the ways in which the policy has been carried out have created serious problems. The problems have built up over the 30-year history of the program. The city seems quick enough to propose reforms to the accessory-dwelling-unit and cash-in-lieu programs when it wants to raise a lot more money.
Perhaps it is time to go beyond tinkering with details and consider serious reform of the ways in which affordable housing is achieved so that negative consequences can be minimized.
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