Cash incentives on the table for workforce housing inspections
Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board looking for ways to get homeowners to allow voluntary inspections of their property to gauge conditions of aging units
The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board is considering offering cash incentives to homeowners to make life safety repairs prior to selling their deed-restricted homes, as well as pay for a third-party inspection.
APCHA board members tossed around those ideas Wednesday as they consider a pilot program that will attempt to gauge the condition of aging deed-restricted ownership units.
Board members agreed that getting people to voluntarily allow APCHA-hired inspectors to come into their home could come up short.
“I am one of the people who just kind of wonders how many are going to open their doors voluntarily with no incentive whatsoever,” APCHA board member and Aspen City Councilwoman Rachel Richards said. “I use the analogy it’s like your parents come to visit and you spend two weeks beforehand cleaning everything you haven’t cleaned … homes are a private space and they are very personal.”
APCHA interim executive director Diane Foster said initially the thought was providing the first $500 in needed repairs in return for allowing an inspection, but maybe it needs to be more like $1,000.
The goal for this year is to get into 100 ownership units, with possibly 50 voluntary and 50 inspections done at the time of listing it for sale.
That would come at a cost of $40,000, with each inspection costing $400.
This year’s focus would be on freestanding, single-family properties that are at least 20 years old.
The idea of the pilot program is to collect data on a set of units so the board can be more informed when making policy decisions on seller standards.
“The piece of information that I really want the board to have is if we have 10 data points on what are the capital needs that will inform whatever you develop for a program for sellers, for future capital improvements, the big program, the how are we going to address actual property needs in the future?” Foster said.
The proposal is in response to a 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.
Because there is up to a 3% annual 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.
The demand for affordable housing is so high that entering the lottery to buy a unit can attract as many as 100 people, so there is nearly always someone who is willing to purchase less-than-desirable properties.
APCHA is attempting to address the problem by putting more teeth into minimum standards for sellers, as well as requiring homeowners to get an inspection prior to listing the property.
“These (inspection) reports will put sellers on notice that OK, if you don’t do this stuff when you sell your property you’ve got a problem with minimum standards so expect you are not going to get maximum resale price and it will also put potential buyers on notice in advance of signing a contract and they will have this information available and they will be able to make a more informed decision,” APCHA attorney Tom Smith said.
There are many details to work out on not only the pilot program but also a larger policy change, which will take months to get to, Foster said.
“The reality is this is a first and a baby step,” she said.
The board will take up the issue at its next meeting in May.
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