Housing Board no closer to policy for lottery mistakes | AspenTimes.com

Housing Board no closer to policy for lottery mistakes

Sarah S. Chung

Four locals who thought they won housing lotteries, but didn’t for one reason or another, still don’t know if they’ll have a new roof over their heads anytime soon.

The victims of lottery mistakes met with the Housing Board Wednesday, hoping to hear they’d have priority for future units. But following an emotionally charged discussion, the board neither granted nor denied the four priority in the next housing lottery.

“I guess there’s nothing to do but wait. But I’ll keep taking high blood pressure medication,” said Charles Kirsten.

In two separate housing lotteries, the four individuals were erroneously notified that they had won affordable housing units. Kirsten was mistakenly notified by the Housing Authority, while the other three actually won a drawing that was later invalidated.

Given the precedence set in the James Shaw case – he was granted priority on a unit after his name was drawn in an invalid lottery last year – the latest victims of lottery errors are seeking the same treatment.

For the Housing Board, it’s a question of what price to put on the emotional distress caused by the mistakes.

But that question proved difficult to answer. Yesterday, the board couldn’t agree to either grant or deny preference in the next lottery.

Three of the four board members present expressed regret at the precedence set with Shaw, stressing that decision was never meant to establish a policy.

“With Jim Shaw, I think I made a chicken-shit decision without considering the impact. I thought it was one unit, one person. I never expected that it would happen again,” said board member Terry Schaefer.

But board member Cari Britton disagreed. Since the four latest nonwinners were notified they had won, but weren’t told the lottery results had to be verified, Britton said a future priority for housing is the only proper resolution for them.

“It’s a fairness issue. A mistake was made – however they were notified,” Britton said.

But board members Frank Peters and Jackie Kasabach questioned the fairness of giving a preference for the three winners of the recent, invalidated lottery, since the names of 34 participants weren’t even included in the drawing.

In defending their cause, the four petitioners argued the Shaw precedent and noted the personal, emotional turmoil resulting from their experiences.

“I was so happy – ecstatic … I thought `oh my God, my troubles are over,'” said Allison Campbell, one of the winners of the invalided lottery. “I’ve been trying for years to win. I feel under the circumstances, that an error was made and [priority] is the just way to fix it.”

Three of the four board members, however, were clearly unwilling to grant priority on the next four available housing units. But a motion to deny priority (by Peters) and one to grant priority (by Britton) both failed for lack of a second.

The matter has been tabled to a future discussion, when more of the board will be present.

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