Downsizing in APCHA only voluntary

Maximizing bedrooms in every unit is goal but only if owner or renter wants to

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a resolution that any “right sizing” or trade downs to make empty bedrooms available in the roughly 3,000 deed-restricted units in the tax-subsidized inventory be a completely voluntary program.

There is significant fear among community members that they will be forced out of their units because they are not using all of their bedrooms or are no longer in the workforce because they are retired.

That is emphatically not the case, said APCHA Executive Director Matthew Gillen during Wednesday’s board meeting.

“We as staff really want to just hit that urban myth right between the eyes, and that urban myth is that any kind of right-sizing program might be compulsory,” he said.

APCHA board and Pitkin County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said she sat in a recent meeting with a senior citizen services group where the concern was brought up.

“They did express concern and fear that seniors would be forced to move either out of the program or into smaller units so there have been direct lines of communication,” she told her fellow board members.

The language in the resolution passed by the APCHA board in part reads, “whereas, the APCHA board is contemplating a right-sizing program allowing an owner to move from a larger home to a smaller home by providing incentives and on a voluntary basis only; whereas, the APCHA board has not approved such a program at this time, but if and when it does it is the present board’s intention that this program will be on a voluntary basis only.”

The board has resurrected in recent weeks the discussion of maximizing every bedroom in the APCHA inventory, which has been a question that housing officials have been formally seeking the answer to for almost two decades.

The concept of “trade downs” or “buy downs” was introduced in 2004 when housing officials began contemplating how to incentivize an owner to move to a smaller unit.

Some of the suggestions included no requalification requirements and monetary considerations based on the number of bedrooms a homeowner would be trading down.

APCHA board members Wednesday agreed to pursue specific incentives that may entice people to downsize, and they include trading or swapping units; waiving sales fees; making sure the conditions of units to be sold for other ones meet minimum standards; prioritizing the number of bedrooms being freed up; and covering moving expenses.

There also was discussion among board members to allow lottery priority for those who want to leave their larger unit for a smaller one in the newly constructed condos in the third phase of Burlingame Ranch that could be available later this year or the beginning of 2023.

That kind of decision must be floated past Aspen City Council since Burlingame is a city-developed project.