Affordable housing waiting list is back | AspenTimes.com

Affordable housing waiting list is back

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

After months of trying to devise a way to chuck the wait list for rental housing, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has come up with a plan: Keep the wait list.

It should, however, be a shorter, less cumbersome wait list, and local workers who are looking for a place to rent won?t have to call the housing office every three months to keep their spot on it.

Instead, the housing board agreed Wednesday, the housing office will maintain a wait list for designated rental projects. Prospective tenants must provide verification of full-time employment in Pitkin County when they apply to get their name on the list and annually thereafter to maintain their place on it.

What remains to be finalized are the procedures the housing office will use to fill an open apartment.

?When a unit becomes available, do we call down the list or do we have people come to us?? said Housing Director Maureen Dobson.

Housing board members appeared to prefer the latter approach.

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In the past, the housing office has called people on the list until it found an interested taker for an apartment. Staffers complained that they often went through 100 names before they found someone who wanted the apartment; prospective tenants complained that they waited for years and that units went to people behind them on the list.

?That?s the one thing I?ve heard for years ? the wait list was considered totally unfair,? said board member Marcia Goshorn. ?I knew people who?d been on the wait list for years that never got a call and people who?d just moved to town on a ski-company work visa and got a place.?

For the new apartments that have recently opened at Truscott Place, the housing office has advertised the units and let applicants come to them, giving priority to tenants based on their position on the wait list.

But a handful of unrented studios at Truscott illustrated the problem with the old procedure of calling people on the list.

Separate lists were maintained for studios, one-bedroom units, two-bedroom units, etc. Each list contained roughly 250 to 400 names, according to Dobson. Staffers called everyone on the studio list for the available Truscott units.

?Out of the whole studio list, we found nobody,? she said.

The housing staff is now in the process of calling everyone on each of the lists and crossing off anyone who has moved away, died, found a home, can?t be reached or doesn?t want to be on the list.

?It?s going to definitely become a much shorter list,? Dobson said. ?Our wait list, I?m hoping, is going to become much more manageable.?

Only board member Keith Webster favored asking workers on the list to check in every 90 days to maintain their status.

?If you keep them on the list for a year, the list becomes cumbersome,? he argued.

While the actual procedures for awarding apartments to prospective tenants still need some refinement, the proposal circulated to the board calls for advertising rental units and letting interested individuals apply to the housing office. The applicant with the highest position on the wait list would get the apartment.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]