Does affordable housing in Pitkin County lack diversity? | AspenTimes.com
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Does affordable housing in Pitkin County lack diversity?

Janet Urquhart

¿Necesita casa? (Need house?)The local government-run affordable housing program could do a better job of reaching out to the Latino work force, according to some members of the City Council.At least, it should try, council members concurred during a brief discussion Tuesday.”By the way we’ve structured our housing, we’ve excluded – not by design – an entire group of people,” complained Mayor Helen Klanderud, who broached the issue with her colleagues after a local newspaper columnist criticized the lack of diversity in the housing program.”I think there’s more that we can do. We talk about diversity in this program,” Klanderud said. “I’m not sure we practice what we preach.”The rental and sale housing under the control of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority is open to all qualified workers in the county, but the housing office doesn’t track the number of Latinos who, for example, enter housing lotteries.It’s against the law to ask applicants their race, noted Cindy Christensen, housing operations manager.”We don’t keep demographics like that,” she said. “We can’t do that.”However, the housing authority could advertise units in Spanish as well as English, noted Councilwoman Rachel Richards.”There probably are greater efforts we could make toward diversity,” she agreed.Publishing the weekly advertisement of sale units in Spanish as well as English would probably cost another $4,000 to $5,000 annually, Christensen estimated. The authority previously experimented with Spanish-language ads for rental units at Marolt, but the effort didn’t seem to spark interest in the seasonal units from the Latino community, she recalled.Some council members suggested the housing office do more outreach to the local work force in general.Richards said she has suggested the housing authority arrange a workshop for potential first-home buyers when the city’s Parcel D project – 39 one-bedroom condos – is ready for its first sales later this year. There are a lot of local workers who probably don’t know the ins and outs of obtaining a mortgage; they may not realize they can qualify for a bank loan, she reasoned.”There’s outreach to be done to many people, not just targeting Latinos,” Councilman Torre agreed.Workshops to help tenants understand their rights would also be appropriate, Klanderud said.Councilman Terry Paulson offered the sole dissent. He questioned the wisdom of publishing housing ads in Spanish, but ignoring other ethnic groups. “Why not Chinese? Why not Thai?” he said.Paulson also said he doesn’t want to see “reverse discrimination” at work in the housing program – favoring a minority group.No one is suggesting that approach, Klanderud countered.”I’m not talking about set-asides or quotas,” she said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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