Officials dealing with Aspen’s deteriorating affordable housing

Rules are likely coming that would require standards of upkeep on deed-restricted units in the local affordable-housing stock to avoid them from falling into disrepair.

Because the demand is so high for the limited number of for-sale units available in the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA), people are buying many of them in poor condition.

And that is a concern of the APCHA board, which directed housing officials last week to draft a proposal that would force homeowners to maintain their units.

“Why should a new owner step into a slum?” APCHA board member Chris Council said.

The housing authority has some basic, minimum standards that are outlined in the guidelines that govern the program but board members agree they need to have more teeth.

“Our bar is low,” Council said.

Board members discussed the issue last month and since then, they have received a lot of feedback from residents that it is a necessary step.

“Based on what we are hearing, our procedures aren’t working,” APCHA Chairman Ron Erickson said.

Aspen resident Jen Phelan told the board at its recent meeting that she commended them for tackling the issue and agrees standards must be set, particularly with materials used in APCHA’s units.

She said she inspected a unit last year that was for sale through the program’s lottery system that was uninhabitable.

“I wouldn’t say anything was standard at all,” she said.

Erickson said if a unit is to be sold, it should have to pass an inspection report that is matched up with set criteria established in the guidelines. A third-party inspector would be hired to prepare the report.

APCHA board member Carson Schmitz noted that 83 people bid in the lottery for a one-bedroom unit in Aspen recently.

“People sit on that list so they can have a roof over their head,” he said, adding for many of them they’d put up with buckled floors and holes in the walls.

Because there is a 3 percent resale cap on for-sale units and limits to how much a homeowner can get back from their investments into a unit, some owners are not motivated to keep their property in good condition.

Housing officials also believe that many homeowners associations do not have sufficient capital reserves to make basic repairs to complexes and the units in them.

APCHA manages the sales of about 1,600 for-sale units in the program, and sets the price based on the resale cap according to the deed restriction on the unit and the overall guidelines.

Erickson suggested if an owner refuses to make the repairs called for in an inspection report, the cost of bringing the unit into compliance would be subtracted from the appreciation accrued over the length of ownership.

APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky said staff can present a draft proposal of guideline changes to the board at its first meeting in November.