County open to housing board changes |

County open to housing board changes

Most of the claims in the lawsuit filed by Centennial housing complex owners were dismissed by a district court judge earlier this week, but there is one aspect still open for challenging.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times file photo

At least two Pitkin County commissioners like the idea of reforming the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board to include elected officials and streamline the decision-making process.

“I personally think that what’s proposed would be a much better solution than what we have now, which is dysfunctional,” Commissioner Steve Child said Thursday. “It would be a good thing to try.”

Commissioner George Newman, one of the four elected officials who were part of an elected officials-led subcommittee that’s been looking at APCHA issues for a year, agreed.

The board currently is more of an administrative body rather than a policy-making body, which translates into a “laborious” and “time-consuming” decision-making process, he said. The issue of capital reserves for affordable-housing complexes — where “nothing actually got accomplished” — brought that issue to the forefront, he said.

That process would be more fruitful with elected officials on the housing authority board, Newman said.

“It’s better for accountability,” he said. “It’s better in terms of being able to move (issues) along quicker.”

The subcommittee of Newman, Commissioner Rachel Richards, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron and Councilman Adam Frisch also came up with two other ideas for the APCHA board, Newman and Child said.

The first was to simply disband APCHA, divvy up the assets and establish separate housing authorities for the city and county, Child said. That could prove beneficial on one hand because the county could ask voters for tax support to run the agency, he said.

The county does not have the benefit of a real estate transfer tax, which the city uses to fund affordable housing.

The second idea was to create a “super APCHA” board where members would have decision-making powers independent of elected officials, Newman said.

That idea, however, would likely conflict with a concern raised Thursday by Pitkin County Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper. She worried that an APCHA board with or without elected officials might make a decision some members of the county board disagreed with but nonetheless were obliged to follow.

“Do they confer with the rest of the (county) board before voting or are they autonomous?” Clapper asked. She said she did not yet have an opinion on the subject and wants to have more information before forming one. Clapper said she was looking forward to a full discussion of the proposal, though she would have liked to have more information about it before Tuesday’s joint meeting between the city and county.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said the discussion about changing the makeup of the APCHA board should not create a poor reflection on the current members.

“It’s not the fault of the APCHA board,” he said. “It’s the system we ask them to operate in. There’s too many cooks in the kitchen.”

And some of those cooks — namely the elected officials who ultimately hold the decision-making power — don’t talk to one another often enough to build consensus on important issues like the capital reserve funds, said Peacock and Assistant County Manager Phyllis Mattice.

“It’s really hard for the APCHA board to make big decisions,” Peacock said.

Tuesday’s discussion is merely the first step in a process that Peacock said should include the city, the county, the current APCHA board and employees and the public.

Attempts Thursday to reach Commissioners Rachel Richards and Greg Poschman for comment were not successful.

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