Housing program back in doghouse | AspenTimes.com
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Housing program back in doghouse

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s worker housing may get the occasional bad rap for failing to roll out the welcome mat to pets, but the statistics indicate the criticism is undeserved.

Most of the deed-restricted sale housing in Aspen and Pitkin County does allow pets; most of the rental units, however, do not.

A recent letter to the editor of a local paper, charging the affordable housing program with carrying out a “no pets” policy, and a newspaper column decrying irresponsible pet owners, have both come to the attention of housing office officials.

The City Council has requested a June 29 discussion to review the status of pets in affordable housing – a hot-button topic that resurfaces periodically.

“There were a couple of letters to the editor … one made it sound like we aren’t a pet-friendly program, but the data shows we are,” said Maureen Dobson, housing director.

A tally of the rules at affordable housing complexes indicates that 89 percent of the sales units allow either dogs or cats, or both, she reported.

The city’s planned Burlingame Ranch project, with up to 330 sales units, will not allow dogs, though. The prohibition is part of an agreement with the neighboring ranch owners.

Among deed-restricted rental apartments, 23 percent of the units allow dogs or cats.

Pet damage in rental units can wind up costing the landlord, while in sales units, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility, Dobson explained.

“I totally agree with the fact that, in rentals, we should have restrictions,” said board member Joanne Ihrig.

Short-term, seasonal rental units with a constant turnover of tenants probably aren’t appropriate for pets, agreed board member Kristin Sabel, but she suggested long-term rentals should be more accommodating.

An additional pet deposit could be charged to pet owners in rental units, Sabel said. Some residents spend years in rental projects, hoping they’ll win a housing lottery so they can buy a unit, she noted.

“I think it means that anyone who hasn’t actually won a lottery can’t have a pet, period,” Sabel said.

The Housing Authority only manages a handful of rental projects where it could try pets, Dobson pointed out. Most of the projects are privately owned, and those owners set their own policies. Rental apartments at the privately run Centennial, for example, allow cats but not dogs.

Two rental projects managed by the housing office, Truscott Place and Aspen Country Inn, both border golf courses – a complication for dog ownership, Dobson said.

Still, board members hinted they’d like to give pets a try in a rental complex. The Shadow Mountain Apartments could be a likely candidate, some suggested.

Board members also agreed the authority’s general policy should be to allow pets in ownership units unless the homeowners’ association decides differently or unless a land-use consideration – adjacent wildlife habitat, for example – dictates pet restrictions.

When associations set the rules on pets, Sabel argued it shouldn’t require 100 percent agreement among the homeowners, as has been the case at some complexes.

Earlier this year, the housing office put “Pets Welcome” in its ads for the new Bavarian Condominiums and then had to backpedal. The City Council agreed to prohibit dogs in the project – a rule that can’t be overturned unless all of the condo owners agree.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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