Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority to launch in-house communications plan |

Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority to launch in-house communications plan

Greater presence on social media channels and live question and answer sessions on tap

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority is rolling out a communications plan in an effort to connect with the community and educate the public on what the agency does.

APCHA, a 40-year program that manages roughly 3,000 for-sale and rental deed-restricted units, is attempting to update how it interacts with the public, which currently seems to be in the dark ages.

“When I was being hired for this job, the role was going to be communications and being the public face of APCHA,” said Matthew Gillen, the agency’s executive director who started his job in October. “I want to make sure that we’re doing that in a way that fits in the 22nd year of the 21st century when right now most people are interacting with us by calling on the telephone, which was invented in the 19th century.”

That means more presence on social media, with the agency reactivating its accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

Gillen said during Wednesday’s APCHA board meeting that the goal at the outset is to post on Facebook three times per week about what’s happening at APCHA and, in a few months, hosting live question and answer sessions on a weekly basis.

Quarterly newsletters, media advertising and the pursuit of coverage from the local press also are part of Gillen’s in-house communications plan.

“We want to make sure people understand what APCHA is trying to do, and that’s citizens and residents and decision makers,” he said, noting that APCHA renters and owners shape the community. “We want to really make clear that APCHA is part of the community, with our tenants, our clients and our owners, and remind them of that and make sure people understand and appreciate what APCHA is in terms of an organization and an idea.”

APCHA board chair Carson Schmitz said most of his interactions with members of the public are frustrating because people are uninformed.

“The conversations I have with people who write letters to the editor, and they are fired up, and then you get on the phone with them, and you talk through everything that’s going on, and it’s like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that,’” he said, adding he would like more information about the agency, its rules and programs on its website and other social media platforms.

APCHA for decades has battled misperceptions and mistrust in the community as it’s a controversial taxpayer-subsidized program that manages hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real estate.

“I think our opportunity in the language is to really lean into the ethos of which are now in our founding documents of compassion, community and inclusion,” said APCHA board member and Aspen City Council member Skippy Mesirow. “What we’re really looking to do is rebuild trust.”

Rachel Richards, also an Aspen City Council member and APCHA board member, said she would like to see a better effort by the agency to reach the Latino community and those who don’t use social media channels.

“I am not sure we’re seeing the results in our occupancies, our tenants and in our new owners that roughly parallels the demographic makeup of our workforce,” she said.