Income increases for workers to be addressed in Aspen’s housing program
Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board agrees to regulation change that would allow for exception to income levels for qualifying renters in deed-restricted program
With a workforce shortage facing the resort community, many local employers are giving raises or bonuses to their employees, but those workers then face eviction of their rental units because they make too much money based on the income category they were approved for in the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority program.
To address that conundrum, the APCHA board on Wednesday tentatively agreed to change the agency’s regulations to increase the exception to income for current tenants from 120% to 150% when they requalify.
“We have seen a slew of folks that have either just been requalified or about to be that are over their category and are going to be told they are out of compliance and have 12 months (to move out) and there’s nowhere for them to go,” APCHA co-Deputy Director Bethany Spitz said.
That’s the case for Monty Love and his wife, Megan Ballard, who rent an apartment at Truscott and were told they are out of compliance because their projected income is over the limit for their unit.
“I’m here on our behalf but more for our community in the midst of understaffing and hiring difficulties in our community, which is constantly in need of more affordable housing,” he told the APCHA board during public comment in Wednesday’s meeting. “It is time for APCHA to update or change their regulations, and here’s the change that I think is necessary — increase income limits for rentals, increase income limits to match current wage increases and or inflation, do not evict good-standing tenants and workers until their unit can be filled with new occupants.”
Kelly McNicholas Kury, APCHA board member and Pitkin County commissioner, said the county has in the past year given its employees as much as 10% raises.
“That has caused people to be overqualified for their housing, and I think (APCHA) had decided to keep the (area median income) low coming out of the pandemic because of job loss and hours cut,” she said. “So it seems something to revisit, because everyone’s getting raises across the valley right now, so I don’t think this is going to be a problem limited to just a handful.”
Cindy Christensen, co-deputy director of APCHA, said the agency is sticking with 2020 incomes because of the lingering effects of the pandemic.
Those who rent in APCHA units must requalify every two years, and if they are found to be out of compliance, they are notified that they have to come back into good standing within 12 months, according to Spitz.
“Basically we are saying you have to make less money, or for the income caps to go back up,” she said.
The change in the regulations may help Love and Ballard, but it’s not certain.
“It’s almost a welfare state: don’t make money or you are going to lose your house,” Love said.
APCHA board member and Aspen City Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she supports the idea of increasing qualifying income levels to 150% and suggested that perhaps those individuals should pay more rent in exchange.
“It shouldn’t be that they get the same rent as someone who’s 10% below that category cap, so it needs to be readjusted there,” she said. “It’s for the good of the project and maintenance.”
APCHA staff will work on a formalized resolution that the board can consider on first and second reading before the regulation can be amended.
The change would likely be reviewed annually, and for how long individuals could use the exception is still a question that officials haven’t resolved.
On Monday night, the City Council listened to ideas for each old building. However, nothing laid out what the community space would actually entail — only aspirations and gathered community comment.