Aspen-Pitkin County housing board going after rule-breakers with fines
The local housing authority is establishing a structure for fines that targets the most common violations within its 3,000-unit inventory.
That was the direction the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board gave to staff this week. At the board’s direction earlier this month, APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky and his team created a list of violations and proposed fines for each. The violations were categorized as minor, moderate and severe, and the fines range from $25 to $500.
As a starting point, APCHA will come up with a fine schedule for what compliance officer Julie Kieffer has determined to be the top four violations in the system: Landlords not having tenants qualify under APCHA guidelines and providing a copy of the lease, people not working full-time in Pitkin County, people not living in their units, and people owning property in APCHA’s defined “ownership exclusion zone.”
Housing officials are hoping the fines will act as a deterrent for scofflaws, since not all of the violations rise to the level of forcing people to sell or move out of their units if they are breaking the rules. APCHA routinely sees repeat offenders, Kosdrosky noted.
“It’s not to be punitive but rather to set the table to show people that they have a responsibility, an obligation” to abide by the rules, he said, adding that it’s a privilege to live in affordable housing. “I think this is an initiative that takes it in that direction.”
Compliance is a growing problem in the housing program.
Kosdrosky said he spends a third of his time on compliance issues, with one or two landing on his desk each day.
There were 154 cases investigated last year, 112 of which were resolved and resulted in 16 sales units back in the inventory and 22 rental openings, according to Kieffer. That’s the equivalent of $19 million worth of inventory given back to the public. Kieffer said there are 80 open compliance cases so far this year.
Kosdrosky said it’s just plain wrong to cheat the system when there are so many families and individuals who need an affordable place to live, including himself.
“As a person who pays a free-market mortgage, there is nothing more insulting than having a tax-subsidized unit being rented out,” he said. “They are getting a subsidy and then turning it into an income.”
Aspen resident Peter Grenney attended Wednesday’s APCHA board meeting, and thanked the board for having the conversation.
“It’s the right direction,” he said.
Kimbo Brown-Schirato, who won an employee housing unit in 2016 and serves on the city’s Next Generation Advisory Commission, said the board is on the right track. She said she hopes the board can get to a place where it is not dealing with compliance cases.
“You should be thinking on a high level and not dealing with somebody pleading in front of you,” she told the board. “Alleviate the teary-eyed cases because I don’t know if that’s what you signed up for.”
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Nearly 100 locally-owned businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have been awarded grants from a pool of $1.2 million in relief funds from Pitkin County.