Changes at Truscott force some residents to move | AspenTimes.com

Changes at Truscott force some residents to move

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

New frames for Truscott affordable housing go up while construction in more complete stages shows promise for those who need their own homes. Paul Conrad photo.

Truscott Place residents will have first dibs on new digs when expansion of the affordable housing complex is done later this year, but some of them will be moving whether they want to or not.

Lower income caps that will go into effect for many of the existing apartments at Truscott will force residents who exceed the limits to make new living arrangements.

Though residents were informed of the pending changes some time ago, worry has set in now that it’s crunch time. They’ve been asked to submit tax returns, paycheck stubs, bank statements and the like to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority. The authority will verify tenants’ incomes and determine who qualifies to remain where they are and who doesn’t.

“People are starting to get nervous,” conceded Michelle Bonfils, project manager for the Housing Authority. “We need to know what their income is so we can determine if we need to find a new place for people to live.

“We’re getting their income calculated before they make a decision or freak out.”

There will be homes for all who need one within the 99 new apartments that are under construction at Truscott, but for those whose income exceeds the new caps, their new apartment will come with a significantly higher rent.

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“This is quite the shock,” said Truscott resident Lorraine Miller. “I think the bottom line is that it’s unfair.”

Some Truscott residents are avoiding extra shifts or turning down new clients in hopes of keeping their earnings on the low side so they’re not forced out, she added.

“My neighbors are talking about not accepting more work because they’re afraid they’re not going to qualify,” Miller said.

“People do weird things for affordable housing in general, so it wouldn’t surprise me,” Bonfils said.

Truscott Place currently consists of the 100 building, which is the former Red Roof Inn, and the 200 and 300 buildings. The new apartments include 58 units in Phase I, scheduled to open Aug. 1, and 41 units in Phase II, which should be ready for occupancy in the fall.

The construction of the Phase II units was partially financed through low-income housing tax credits. Needed refurbishing of the 200 and 300 buildings, including new carpeting and water heaters for the 46 apartments there, is also to be financed through the tax credits.

Use of the tax credits means new income regulations, established by the Colorado Housing Finance Authority, will be imposed on the units, effective Aug. 1.

The income caps established by the CHFA are considerably lower than those set for the 200 and 300 buildings by the Housing Authority. For example, a one-person household will face a $34,680 cap under the new limits; currently the cap is $68,100. For two people, the new cap is $39,660, compared to the current $102,100.

A two-person household under the CHFA guidelines can be an adult with one dependent, but many of the two-person households at Truscott consist of two working adults living together as roommates. For some, their combined income puts them well over the new limits, meaning they’ll have to move.

Miller and her roommate are in that situation.

There are about 55 residents in the 200 and 300 buildings. Bonfils estimates some 15 of them will have to make new housing arrangements.

“The truth of the matter is, a lot of these people are going to be able to stay where they are,” she said. “That’s our goal – to keep as many people there as we can. We don’t want to displace people. It’s not fun to move, but some people are just way too far over.”

A single resident at Truscott whose income exceeds the new cap has the option of moving into one of the new Phase I units, which won’t be regulated by the CHFA. A studio there will rent for $954 a month, a one-bedroom apartment will go for $1,076 and a two-bedroom for $1,189.

A one-bedroom flat in the 200 and 300 buildings currently rents for $515 and a one-bedroom loft is $588 a month.

Roommates have the option of splitting up so each can rent a one-bedroom unit. Some might meet the CHFA caps living alone, others’ incomes would still force them into the pricier Phase I housing. Or, they could move to a two-bedroom unit in Phase I.

A two-bedroom apartment in the existing buildings rents for $690 ($345 per person) and a two-bedroom loft is $920.

The increase, noted Miller, is “pretty drastic.”

The Phase II rents will be lower than Phase I, but higher than current rents in the 200 and 300 buildings. A studio will rent for $829 per month, a one-bedroom flat will go for $878 and a two-bedroom unit will rent for $1,046.

Rents in the 200 and 300 buildings will remain where they are for a year, but will then rise incrementally to bring them in line with the rents in the Phase II building, according to Bonfils.

For those who must move, the Housing Authority is helping them explore their options, whether it’s a new unit at Truscott or a unit at another housing complex, Bonfils said.

Some residents who are facing a forced move have indicated they’re interested in relocating into the Phase I building, she said. Others, who have endured the construction mess at Truscott and now this, are electing to leave altogether.

“They don’t want to live at Truscott anymore. They’re done with the construction, they’re done with the paperwork,” Bonfils said.

Miller, a language instructor for Colorado Mountain College and an eight-year Aspen resident, said she plans to leave this summer for a yearlong education sabbatical. She had hoped to arrange to have another qualified worker rent her apartment during her absence and then return to Truscott Place next year.

Now, Miller said she will just give up her quarters there and hope to find something when she returns. She said she spent four years on a waiting list to get into Truscott and has entered 15 lotteries in an attempt to buy a deed-restricted home, but has never won.

“Housing is such an issue. When I come back, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.