Candidates’ views on housing office
Today kicks off The Aspen Times coverage of the upcoming mayoral/ council candidates election, which takes place May 4. We will be asking the 10 candidates one question per day, and will print their brief answers each day leading up to the election.
Answers may be edited slightly to fit space requirements.
Some in our community have called for a complete reworking of how the housing office and board functions. What types of changes do you believe should be made?
Rachel Richards, mayor I would like to do an independent review of the housing office, after the political season, to really take an unbiased look at it, with an eye toward increasing efficiency. Simply stripping the housing office of its construction activities could be jumping from the frying pan to the fire. But to have an independent group evaluate the pros and cons of the housing board as it is, will bring to light what’s effective and what’s not, and by reviewing the different ways we can build housing, we can use that as a template for future choices, keeping in mind the unique characteristics of each site.
Michael O’Sullivan, mayor I would change direction within, but not completely revamp the housing program. The housing program has evolved to the point by which they want to micro-manage every project from inception to move-in. These properties will be developed, be it in the public or the private sector, and I want to include the private sector again in the form of more RO units to help pay and accelerate the building of these projects. If we rely solely on the housing tax subsidy to purchase, plan and build these projects, they just won’t get done.
Bill Stirling, mayor First of all, the housing authority is a lot like my business – property management, sales and some development – so I’m pretty knowledgeable and aware of this kind of operation. When there’s a change like what’s occurring right now, some exterior pressure is being put on, and in light of that, I see it as a terrific opportunity to analyze this agency and decide if we can achieve the goal, which really is to build the best housing for the most citizens as we can with our limited resources. We need to buy down or subsidize the private developer proposals and get them into category ones and twos, and that means we’d spend less money, because we haven’t bought the land or done the development.
Helen Klanderud, mayor I want an affordable housing policy that works, and I believe we need a new housing policy. We have to have affordable housing that is affordable. We need to provide more housing for single working people so they can get a foothold and plan for a future here. I believe the housing authority should get out of the development business. We need to aggressively work with the private sector to achieve the development of affordable housing through incentives. The city needs to pursue those same options on city-owned property.
Tim Semrau, council Given that the housing authority is attempting to develop $100 million worth of units in an expedited manner, I think their current procedures and staffing make that task impossible. To produce 500 high-quality neighborhood appropriate units in the next five years, I would encourage that the housing authority divide into an administrative function and a developmental function. The administration function would take care of the day-to-day affairs and be politically responsive, while the developmental function would be staffed by construction professionals who would be politically immune and free to develop an accurate and efficient delivery system for high-quality units.
Tom McCabe, council The criticism arises out of the frustration of not having more housing available now. There is a large population of people who have the need and there’s a very small supply. On the other end of the stick, the housing authority is giving marching orders that say we want quality employee housing, we don’t want garbage. What I think we’re up against is that the housing authority has a very big task to fulfill, and they’re basically understaffed and overworked to deal with it all. We need to work closer with the private sector and develop a relationship where the housing authority sets the goals and the developers run the show.
Roger Haneman, council The housing program has become an easy target these days: There have been problems with lottery drawings, missed estimates on the Snyder project, and everyone is aware of the lack of new housing in recent years. But that is not to say there are intrinsic flaws in the system. The housing board was already working on the lottery system when the errors occurred and there are roughly 20 projects in various stages of development, to be completed anywhere from five years to as soon as this summer. I am sure the housing board is as willing to listen to new ideas as am I, and I hope to see some recent suggestions pursued, but I don’t think wholesale changes are warranted right now.
Bruce Meyer, council As one of the founders of the Castle Ridge Tenants Association and currently as the Castle Ridge Tenants representative, I feel comfortable with what the housing office has done. As far as changes, I feel that we should concentrate more on the construction of studios, studio lofts and one-bedrooms, these being the most desirable units. We should resolve the problems by having a fair and just lottery system.
Anthony Hershey, council The government doesn’t do a good job and hasn’t done a good job in the building of public housing. They do an excellent job overseeing existing problems and as an oversight group, but what I’d like to see is more buy-downs with existing properties and more cooperation with private developers, including the Aspen Skiing Co. and the Music Associates of Aspen.
Jake Vickery, council Mr. Vickery was not available for comment. We hope to print his answer in Monday’s issue.
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