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Disagreeing with Semrau

Dear Editor:I had many opportunities to work with Tim Semrau on affordable housing. There was only one aspect of Tim Semrau’s approach to affordable housing that I respectfully disagreed with. It was a theme for Tim in all of his affordable housing endeavors – there was money to be made, and it was appropriate that the program should emphasize that more.This was true of Tim’s belief about developer profit on affordable housing. Tim and I often disagreed publicly over the appropriate mix of prices, and I would argue for more affordability while Tim would argue for a better bottom line for the developer. I recall a task group of citizens working on the Resident Occupied guidelines, where Tim argued very vigorously for a less restrictive and less affordable RO guideline; a forum where I argued for the opposite.He had the same belief about resale – that the owners of affordable housing should realize more return on resale. This is not a new idea for Tim – he articulated it first on the Victorians at Bleeker, after the project was sold and occupied, and he offered some incentives to the city in return for a more lenient deed restriction. His most recent proposal to increase the resale rate is consistent with that.For Tim, it was about a particular meaning of the “American Dream” of housing. Tim believes the dream is partly about making money in housing – developing it and reselling it. That’s a meaning of the “American Dream” that, in my respectful opinion, has never really been a true part of that dream. For most people in this country, there is no expectation of a great deal of profit on home ownership. The exceptions are in places where housing prices are appreciating rapidly. I’m not saying that Tim is bad or evil for believing that housing ought to be about profit, just that I disagree that our housing program should use its resources to promote that.For a long time I thought that respectful disagreement about this one issue was mutual – that Tim and I respected each other and our respective beliefs. I found out differently when I was told some of the things Tim had to say about myself and the housing office – things he said privately that got back to me. Tim said really ugly things about me and the program – that we were incompetent, that we were not doing our job, that we did not know how to do our job. Since there was no basis for this in fact, I have to assume that Tim was doing this as a way to discredit us and our positions and viewpoints about the housing program.That was the biggest disappointment for me – that Tim would take this disagreement beyond a positive public forum making the program better – that he would deliberately misinform people as a way to discredit us. I suppose this is no different than politics as usual, but I really can’t forgive him for that.Dave TolenAspen


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