Housing office to drop fee | AspenTimes.com

Housing office to drop fee

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Owners of deed-restricted housing won’t have to pay $15 when the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority checks to see if they’re still complying with the rules that came with their home.

The housing board agreed Wednesday to drop the fee in response to complaints, though the Housing Authority charges $15 to tenants in its rental units for a similar requalification process.

Homeowners have complained about the fee, and the authority’s attorney has also questioned whether the requalification fee for homeowners is legal, according to Cindy Christensen, acting housing director.

“This has been the biggest point of contention we’ve had about this whole enforcement program, believe it or not,” she said.

The Housing Authority began a new enforcement program this year, mailing out letters to some 1,200 owners of deed-restricted units in early February. Homeowners were informed of the agency’s intent to begin a random check for compliance with the deed restrictions that govern units that are supposed to house qualified local workers and their families.

Recipients were also asked to sign and return an affidavit that asked homeowners if they meet minimum work and residency requirements, and if they own any other developed residential property in the Roaring Fork River drainage.

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The housing office has received about 90 percent of the completed affidavits back, according to Christensen. The office will begin auditing about 60 homeowners a month; every owner will be checked for compliance within two years. It’s when a homeowner is up for the audit that the $15 fee was to be assessed.

The housing board voted unanimously to drop the fee. The action came at the end of a long meeting and without debate.

Asked later why homeowners won’t be charged, though renters of deed-restricted units are assessed the fee, board member Jamie Knowlton said, “That’s a good question.”

County Commissioner Shellie Roy, also a board member, suggested the board reconsider its action, but the meeting had already been adjourned.

Board member David Guthrie predicted the matter would be reconsidered at a future session.

The board originally enacted the fee to help cover the administrative costs associated with the new enforcement effort. The office has added a temporary position to its staff to help launch the program.

Christensen suggested the board consider other means of recouping the cost of the program when it discusses next year’s budget. A $100 fee, charged to the buyer when a deed-restricted unit changes hands, is one option, she noted in a memo to the board.

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