Aspen’s housing authority looks to Woody Creek mobile homes as pilot program for replacing dilapidated units
Program seeks to address seller standards throughout the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s 1,600 ownership units
The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board agreed on Wednesday to pursue a pilot program focused on mobile homes in Woody Creek in which the agency would buy units that are in poor condition and replace them with modular homes.
APCHA has identified 36 units that are candidates for replacement in the mobile home park that is now a subdivision in Woody Creek.
Under the proposal, when a homeowner informs APCHA that he or she wants to sell, the agency will determine the condition of the unit through an inspection and whether it should be repaired or replaced.
In the units that have been identified by APCHA that would likely need replacement, APCHA would exercise first right of refusal and buy out the homeowner and replace the mobile home with a prefabricated one and then sell it to a qualified buyer.
The units on APCHA’s radar are category 5 units, which have an income limit of $212,200 for two people and a maximum resale price of $636,000, according to the agency’s regulations.
Assistant City Manager Diane Foster explained to the board during its regular meeting scenarios in which APCHA would be made whole or would have to put in a subsidy.
Thirteen of the 36 units identified for replacement are the most expensive to replace based on their last purchase price and in order to resell at the maximum sales price, it could cost the agency around $500,000 in subsidies as a worst-case scenario.
There are 21 properties that fall between least expensive and in the middle, where little subsidy is required.
The pilot program is designed to address the decades-old problem that affordable housing officials in the upper valley have been dealing with in trying to ensure that when any of the 1,600 ownership units in the taxpayer-subsidized program is sold that basic upkeep of the property has been maintained.
What officials have seen over the years is that homeowners let their properties fall into disarray, pushing maintenance and repairs to the next buyer.
The seller standards that APCHA seeks to address through the pilot program are based on the intent of long-term sustainability and to give the next buyer a good home and if possible, improve homes while people are living in them, Foster said.
The Woody Creek subdivision was identified as a potential partner for APCHA due to the age of the mobile homes and their condition.
“It gives us the opportunity to work with a small group of residents; it actually has some elements that minimizes some of the pain points I think in this program and gives us the opportunity to try something with minimal risk,” Foster said. “The philosophy behind this is bring this thing up to a standard.”
APCHA board member John Ward said the pilot program could provide a template for units throughout the inventory that need major repairs or replacements without putting the onus on a new buyer.
“I think this is great and this is how I envisioned the whole thing working at some point, that APCHA has right of first refusal and you go into any for sale unit, get an inspection done and we look at it and say this a daunting task to ask anybody to do so we’re buying it, we’re going to spend the money and we may list it again,” he said. “We can make the decision if we want to down category it or reduce the price.”
APCHA board member Rachel Richards, who also is an Aspen City Councilwoman, said if the program proves successful it’s going to cost money.
“There’s going to be a time when public money is needed in this program, you can only get so much blood out of a turnip,” she said, adding it’s not a self-replenishing program but will need to be.
Ward responded that a certain amount of money should be allocated to APCHA’s budget for such a program.
The meatier question of how much a property should be depreciated based on its condition will be discussed in the future, but all board members present at Wednesday’s meeting expressed support for moving the pilot program forward sooner rather than later.
APCHA board member and Pitkin County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said she thinks the approach is a smart one and better than the idea of APCHA hiring a third party to inspect homes and then reducing resale values based on those findings, which was threatening to some homeowners based on feedback she’s received.
“I think this really shows up on the partnering side of the equation and how APCHA is trying to partner in this investment over the long term,” she said. “I like the direction that we are heading in this iterative process and I hope that these communities that have been targeted for the pilot program would be interested.”
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