Board ponders change to prevent housing abuses |

Board ponders change to prevent housing abuses

Sarah S. Chung

Resident-occupied housing, the most expensive category within the affordable housing program, may soon be sold through the lottery system.

Housing board members will consider the change today, after hearing stories about people abusing the rules of the affordable housing program when they sell their RO units.

A local developer, however, is hoping the housing board will leave things as they now stand. RO owners should have the right to choose who can buy their homes, said John McBride, who is currently developing the North Forty project near the airport.

“RO is a solid idea that’s worked for 20 years,” said McBride. “I can’t tell you how much pride people have in their homes, and having the opportunity to sell to a family member or close friend is something that shouldn’t be denied them. If a bona fide county employee lives there, I never quite got the need to meddle.”

Resident-occupied housing has always been its own animal in the employee housing program. There are no income and asset guidelines for owners of RO units, like there are for the other categories of housing.

All RO buyers must be qualified Pitkin County employees and there are strict appreciation caps on resales. But unlike category units, there are no initial sale price limits on RO units and there are also no capital improvement caps.

“Since there is such a limited supply and demand is so high, there’s a lot of pressure on the units,” said housing board member Tim Semrau, who has developed two RO projects. “I’ve heard stories of ten people bidding on a house and people just taking the difference [from the allowed sale price] under the table.”

All category units are placed in a general lottery, after other residents within the same development are given a chance to purchase them. But RO residents have always been able to choose a buyer, as long as the next owner is a county employee.

At today’s housing board meeting, the board will discuss the legal possibilities of changing the deed restrictions on both future and current RO units. According to Housing Director Mary Roberts, pulling future RO units into the lottery system will more likely be a policy issue, whereas incorporating current units into the lottery may have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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