Gomes: Housing efforts must end
Longtime local Pepper Gomes declared himself a candidate for Aspen City Council yesterday and, in the next breath, took a bold stand on a touchy subject – the affordable housing program.
The ski instructor and summertime jack-of-all-trades said he favors halting construction of new affordable housing until and unless the program regains its original focus – providing homes for committed local residents.
“I’m for stopping affordable housing completely,” said Gomes, 56, who moved to Aspen in 1968 and resides in an affordable unit at Hunter Creek with his wife and daughter.
Gomes contends the program is rife with abuse of the rules. He also complained that longtime local workers who struggle to get by in rental units too often lose housing lotteries to buyers who already own a free-market home somewhere but qualify to bid on an affordable unit.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the rules we have pit people who lived here for 10 or 15 years against people who own free-market homes here in town or downvalley,” he said. “Is that taking care of our local working community? It doesn’t sound like it.
“It ain’t working and it’s time to fix it. If that means stopping what we’re building until we fix it, then stop it.”
Gomes suggested plenty of owners of affordable units know of others who are violating the rules by owning another residence elsewhere in the valley, but no one wants to “rat” on a neighbor.
“Our housing people seem to have no answers or any way of controlling it, and they turn a blind eye to it,” he charged.
Gomes also suggested it’s time for Aspen to review the growth-control measures that were enacted in the 1970s and see if they are still viable. He suggested the rules have done little to curb growth or preserve the town’s character. They’ve just made it extraordinarily expensive to build here, Gomes said.
“I think it’s time to look at the community and how it’s grown,” he said.
Gomes also suggested Aspen get rid of paid parking and questioned where those parking revenues go.
“I want to see who starts squealing when we eliminate that million dollars a year. I want to know where it’s going,” he said.
Gomes made his first bid for public office last summer as a candidate to replace Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland, who faced a recall election. Ireland was retained, rendering the race for his replacement moot.
Gomes said his candidacy in the recall was a last-minute decision, prompted because the only other candidate was active in the recall effort.
“It didn’t seem right. . I thought, give the voters another choice,” he said.
His run for a council seat, Gomes said, is a matter of community service. “It’s going to sound corny, but after all these years of living here, this community has given me a pretty good life. . I think it’s time to give something back. It’s something you do for your community – you step up and serve.”
The field of City Council candidates thus far includes Gomes, incumbent Terry Paulson, TV talk-show host Andrew Kole and developer Tim Semrau.
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