Housing is no. 1 reason young adults say they cannot live in Aspen long-term, according to NextGen survey | AspenTimes.com

Housing is no. 1 reason young adults say they cannot live in Aspen long-term, according to NextGen survey

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

APCHA HOUSING LOTTERY SYSTEM - years working in aspen versus priority

4 – 8 years 5 chances

8 – 12 years 6 chances

12 – 16 years 7 chances

16 – 20 years 8 chances

more than 20 years 9 chances

Information courtesy APCHA Operations Manager, Cindy Christensen

Local young and middle-age adults say housing is the No. 1 reason why they are unable to live in Aspen long term, despite their desire to settle down here.

Aspen NextGen, which is a city commission that advocates for policy direction benefiting 18- to 40-year-olds who live or work in Aspen, conducted a survey of 247 people in their age demographic.

Of the 247 people surveyed, nearly half have lived in Aspen for at least five years, and an overwhelming 92 percent said they want to live in Aspen long term.

When asked about the factors limiting their ability to live in Aspen long-term, housing was “by far and away” respondents’ greatest concern, NextGen housing subcommittee member Lindsey Palardy said.

It was this feedback that prompted the group to form a subcommittee devoted solely to addressing these housing concerns.

Since NextGen’s initial survey, the group says it has really worked to educate itself on this issue and dig deeper.

“We used the survey to prioritize our policy issues going forward,” Palardy said.

After a great deal of time, research and meetings with interest groups and members of City Council, NextGen created another survey in order to better understand how 18- to 40-year-olds in Aspen feel about the city’s affordable-housing program, Palardy said.

NextGen conducted four one-hour sessions that consisted of 37 clicker questions, as well as four “exploratory questions,” NextGen board member Christine Benedetti said during an affordable-housing work session with City Council on Aug. 28.

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority approved NextGen’s second survey, which reached a total of 46 respondents, Benedetti said.

For this issue, respondents say their No. 1 obstacle with the housing authority’s affordable-housing program is that there are not enough available long-term units in certain categories, the survey said.

Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority Operations Manager Cindy Christensen said it is “very difficult right now” for the organization, as well.

“We have absolutely zero vacancies,” Christensen said, adding that the seasonal rental properties, Marolt Ranch and Burlingame, are already fully reserved for the 2015-16 winter season.

Christensen said the organization receives numerous phone calls and drop-ins every day from people asking about rental situations. She said many of the calls come from people who have recently been offered a job in Aspen but are unable to find available affordable housing.

Another common issue throughout NextGen’s survey indicated a widespread lack of understanding of exactly how the affordable-housing system works.

Anyone working full time within Aspen or Pitkin County qualifies under the program, which utililzes priority system, Christensen said.

“The top priority is where at least one person in the household has worked full time — at least 1,500 hours per calendar year — within Pitkin County for four consecutive years at the time of application,” she said.

However, there are other requirements.

“The household’s income and assets cannot be higher than the category of the unit, and must meet the minimum occupancy requirements,” Christensen said. For three bedrooms, the top priority goes to a household of three with at least one dependent. In instances where there is a dependent, however, one of the parents is allowed to be a stay-at-home parent.

“A household also obtains more chances in the lottery for a longer work history,” Christensen said.

“The properties that are categorized as RO, or resident occupied, have different requirements. Some have a one-year work history within the Roaring Fork Valley, some have a three-year work history within Pitkin County, etc. Some owners have to list with (the housing authority) and some do not. Some have an appreciation cap, and some do not,” Christensen explained.

While young people say affordable housing is their greatest deterrent to living in Aspen in the long term — followed by poor career and/or business opportunities, wages and benefits, Palardy said — other demographics and businesses also are suffering as a result of the system.

Christensen said the housing authority’s sales have slowed down, as well.

“Product that we had listed for over a year is not either under contract or has been sold,” she said. “It is a very tough market for anyone to find affordable housing at this point in time.”