APCHA to implement ‘rightsizing’ program | AspenTimes.com

APCHA to implement ‘rightsizing’ program

The Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority Board of Directors approved a rightsizing pilot program on Wednesday.
Courtesy Photo

Some residents in deed-restricted housing will get the opportunity to move into properties with a more appropriate number of bedrooms for their household now that the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority Board of Directors greenlighted a pilot rightsizing program on Wednesday.

“It’s out of a desire to get as much bang for the buck of APCHA dollars,” said APCHA Executive Director Matthew Gillen. “And be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

“Rightsizing” refers to a voluntary agreement between two owners to purchase and sell their deed-restricted properties to each other. The idea is that the qualified owner with a larger household will get a larger property, and the qualified owner with a smaller household will get a smaller property.

Basically, rightsizing is a strategy to minimize the number of empty, unused bedrooms in deed-restricted housing.

APCHA staff said the program will go live on the APCHA site in about a month. The application will be a Google form on the website, which staff said is near completion. 

In the scope of the pilot program, APCHA will accept only five completed applications for the rightsizing program once it launches. After that, to accept any more applications will require approval from the Board of Directors. 

Gillen said the idea for the pilot program came from a 2022 APCHA survey in which owners expressed significant interest in a rightsizing program. 

How the program will work

Two owners must apply together under one submission. APCHA will not match owners together, so owners must connect outside of the rightsizing program.

Gillen said APCHA does not have plans to host a marketplace or engage in matchmaking with potential rightsizing applicants, as the program is in its fledgling moments. 

“If it’s a big success, we’ll bring it back to (the board),” he said. “But there likely are problems we don’t even know about.”

If two owners are able to connect and agree to exchange houses through the program and apply, APCHA will ensure that all co-applicants meet the eligibility and qualification requirements of Part III of the APCHA regulations, which address employment and residence in Pitkin County, among other rules.

The resolution allows for some modifications to the regulations, specifically the age of dependents. 

Provision 14 of the resolution reads:

14. Occupancy – dependents. For the purpose of determining occupancy, a buyer who is upsizing shall include all dependents who are age 16 or less as of the date of closing. A buyer who is downsizing shall include all dependents who are 19 or less as of the date of closing.

Board member Alycin Bektesh took issue with that provision, saying it fails to consider lifestyle choices of some young people and their families.

“To me, that still feels very presumptive of what kind of life you should live post-high school. That you should go up, leave home, be part of a college, and not just enter the local workforce, not go to CMC but want to live at home,” she said. “And then it’s also presuming that anyone who has younger kids isn’t sending them to boarding school.”

She also raised the point that the age is not in alignment with other APCHA regulations regarding age and occupancy.

Cindy Christensen, deputy director of housing, operations, and property management, explained why staff kept the age at 16 for dependents in an upsizing household. 

“The reason why staff really was adamant about keeping the age at 16 was: Why are we going through all of this when somebody’s downsizing in one year? It’s going to be right back (to lower occupancy). And we’re no longer counting that as a unit that meets the minimum occupancy,” she said. “And that doesn’t mean that the person is going out. But nine times out of 10, and we have seen this in this town, I’ve seen more of the children leave — not come back, but leave. And then there’s empty bedrooms.”

Participation in the pilot program does allow owners to “skip the line” in a way by bypassing the APCHA lottery system for home sales. Staff said they presented a lottery system structure for the program to the board in the past, but the board favored a first-come, first-served structure for the pilot program. 

A detailed list of requirements for the program is available in the agenda for the Wednesday, April 5, APCHA Board of Directors meeting. 

“When we come back, we’ll have, hopefully, five real examples. And we can say, this is what it looked like,” said Chairman Carson Schmitz. “So hopefully, that will make a difference.”

The resolution passed 3-1 with Schmitz, Rachel Richards, and Kelly McNicholas Kury voting yes. Alycin Bektesh voted no.

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