Housing board agrees to review asset guidelines | AspenTimes.com

Housing board agrees to review asset guidelines

Sarah S. Chung

According to one county commissioner, the income/asset guidelines that determine a resident’s affordable housing category need a reality check.

Speaking strictly as an affordable housing applicant, Commissioner Shellie Harper won a promise from the housing board to consider a little more flexibility when setting the caps on housing categories.

Harper’s appeal stemmed from a special review committee’s decision that she did not qualify for Category 4 affordable housing because her assets exceed the guideline maximum.

Although there are currently no Category 4 units available in her election district, Harper wanted to make the point that sometimes the asset guidelines do not accurately reflect a person’s purchasing ability.

In her situation, Harper’s total assets of $265,000 exceed the $225,000 ceiling. But her argument was that since her income of $24,600 is so much lower than the income maximum ($110,000) her total purchasing power is significantly less than many individuals who qualified for Category 4 housing.

“The point is I can’t come close to purchasing on my own, but don’t qualify for help,” Harper said. “It’s a major loophole in the policy … and I know there are other people like me.”

Two common scenarios where assets and income ratios might be dramatically skewed are when people get divorced or there’s a death in the family, Harper noted.

The majority of the housing board agreed that the issue should be investigated further.

“All housing program policy, particularly the guidelines, are living documents,” said board member Rachel Richards. “We should try to match regulations as closely as possible with the realities of life.”

Board members also suggested that the provision allowing retired residents to own 150 percent above the asset maximum could use some attention.

“I’d be willing to look at sliding scale assets by age,” said board member Bob Helmus. “Those assets don’t just turn up overnight. A person has to work hard all their lives to get to that point.”

The only dissenting vote over taking another look at the asset guidelines came from chairman Frank Peters.

“I don’t see a reason to radically overhaul policy,” Peters said. “Either more people are suffering in silence that we haven’t heard from or this is a relatively rare issue. … But I see the value in having a more defined criteria for special review cases.”

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