Huge rent hike at assisted living center a mistake | AspenTimes.com

Huge rent hike at assisted living center a mistake

John Colson

Residents at the Castle Creek Terrace assisted living center near Aspen were outraged last month when they were notified Aspen Valley Hospital was raising their rent by 22 percent starting Jan. 1.But on Thursday, after being contacted by The Aspen Times, a hospital official said the letter was an error and rents would increase by 6 to 10 percent. AVH Chief Finance Officer Terry Collins said the hospital, which operates the center, has been increasing the rents annually at the center, and this year’s increase was steeper only because a survey of regional assisted living centers showed that Castle Creek Terrace rents were well below others in the area. He did not give any exact figures from that survey.Some residents at Castle Creek Terrace indicated on Thursday that they were not as angry as they had been, although at least one man still thinks the rent increase is too high.”It is not the 5 percent that they promised us,” said resident Richard Sherman, but he added, “they have definitely shown flexibility.”Earlier on Thursday, Sherman, who has lived in the facility since April, said he was told when he moved in that the rents would go up by about 5 percent a year.”We felt that they were being totally and absolutely unreasonable,” he said regarding the initial announcement and subsequent uprising by some of the residents. Sherman, along with three others, had written a letter to the editor decrying the higher rent, a letter that they canceled.Castle Creek Terrace, which has the capacity for 15 residents but currently houses about a dozen, was built in 1990 with privately raised funds, according to Dr. Harold Whitcomb, who was one of the main organizers of the fund-raising effort.”I think somebody kind of blew it,” Whitcomb said of the increase. He said originally the rents were “way below what everybody in the valley was charging” because the facility had been paid for already, and low rents were needed to provide housing for longtime Aspen-area seniors who did not have a lot of money.In the ensuing years, he acknowledged, the rents have been rising steadily because “it’s gotten more expensive to run the place.”Still, he said, to impose a rent increase of 22 percent, or even 10 percent, is too hard on seniors with fixed incomes.”I think it should be done gradually,” he said.Collins said operations at the assisted living center generally run in the red every year, to the tune of “roughly $100,000.””Even with the increase we put into effect this year,” he said, “we are still losing money. I think our view has been that we were trying to keep the prices as low as possible. Obviously, we’re not looking at that as a profit center.” He said the hospital is struggling to control costs and minimize red ink in its budget, and the rent hikes are one aspect of that struggle.Castle Creek Terrace is also initiating fees for grooming services, including shampoos, hairstyling, nail trims and laundry. “Nothing is free,” Collins said.He said the fees for those services had been folded into the rents, and “we just decided to break it out because there will be some people who won’t make use of the services.”By putting such grooming services on a “pay-as-you-use-it” basis, he said, “We were really trying to be fairer” to those who previously had been paying for services they had not been using.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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