Aspen’s affordable housing board stumped over how to force homeowners to maintain their properties
Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority is limited in what it can require homeowners to do
The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board is once again attempting to address a decades long but unsolved problem in which the system allows owners of deed-restricted, government subsidized properties to let their units fall into disarray.
Pushing maintenance and repairs to the next buyer is unfair, APCHA board members said during Wednesday’s regular meeting.
“They shouldn’t have to go in and dump a bunch of money into a shithole,” said APCHA board member John Ward. “I have no interest in a deal where the seller who was irresponsible in their property, didn’t take care of it … let it deteriorate and they believe they can sell it at full list price, full appreciation to some poor soul, another working family or working individual that wants to secure a future in Aspen.”
Ward’s comments were similar to what he said about the issue in 2018 at an APCHA board meeting, yet the needle hasn’t moved on a solution because it’s complex and the agency is limited in what it can require of homeowners.
The issue goes back well before 2018 and has stumped previous boards and task forces focused on the local housing program.
APCHA manages the sales of about 1,600 for-sale units and sets the price based on the resale cap according to the deed restriction on the unit and the overall guidelines.
Because there is a 3 percent resale cap on for-sale units and limits to how much a homeowner can get back from their investments into a unit, some owners are not motivated to keep their property in good condition.
And the demand for affordable housing is so high that entering the lottery to buy a unit can attract up to 100 people, so there is nearly always someone who is willing to purchase less-than-desirable properties.
Another layer in the cog of bureaucracy for the 40-year-old agency is that most units have their own unique deed restriction rules that give APCHA limited authority to force owners to maintain their properties.
“I’ve tried to step back and think about why this hasn’t been solved … this is going to be a very controversial topic because there are some that are old, some that are new, they’re not the same,” said APCHA board member Carson Schmitz. “We are going to have people on both sides of this thing, a lot of people are going to like what happens and a lot of people are not going to like what happens.”
And what will happen, if anything, remains a big question among board members, as well as individuals who are falling victim to having to invest tens of thousands of dollars at the outset of buying their properties.
“We’ve really come to see that we’re standing in the middle of a big mud puddle at the moment that needs to be cleared out,” said APCHA board member David Laughren.
Board members will take up the matter and attempt to unravel the ball of complexity in the upcoming weeks and months.
“I think we need to really flesh out what all the different questions are that might arise from trying to tackle this problem,” said APCHA board member Kelly McNicholas Kury. “And what is our role in it and what is the community and the subsidy that is ongoing with that?”
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Warm and dry conditions to start the winter have kept all but the higher elevation slopes free of snow. That is expected to change by the end of the week and the avalanche hazard could start to climb, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.