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Officials want input on Aspen’s affordable housing rules

Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority sign in downtown Aspen.
Aspen Times File

Officials in charge of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority are gearing up to make significant changes to the rules of the program, potentially affecting the lives of thousands of residents.

To make sure people understand what is changing, a public outreach subcommittee has been formed consisting of three APCHA board members.

They are searching for a facilitator to lead a public outreach process that will include hosting a series of meetings around issues in the housing program that are being addressed.

“The discussions we are having have to be about the guideline changes,” APCHA board member and Aspen City Councilwoman Rachel Richards said during a meeting Wednesday. “This not philosophical. … We need real-life examples and how it’s applied in the past and in the future.

“They need to know the nitty to the gritty.”

One area in which board members want to make changes include eligibility requirements to live in deed-restricted units — as it relates to where people work and generate income; how hours of work are counted; and if volunteer, nonprofit and community service count.

Current rules state that people who live in deed-restricted housing must work 1,500 hours a year in Pitkin County and reside in the unit nine months a year.

The board also is considering minimum income requirements for ownership and “equity for the most vulnerable.”

Another area of concern for the APCHA board is dealing with a significant population that will retire in the current inventory and how to “right size” people in units.

HOA responsibilities, capital reserves, and fees and fines for those who break the rules also are up for discussion.

As subcommittee members David Laughren, Kelly McNicholas Kury and Skippy Mesirow propose it, there would be a public meeting for each topic, of which there are eight.

Richards said that is too much to ask of residents who may care about all of the topics but can’t make it to eight input sessions.

Board members said they’d wait to hear ideas from potential facilitators on how to conduct the public outreach.

Richards asked if APCHA could rely on the city’s communications department for some of the outreach, but Mesirow said they are too busy with other projects.

Both Richards and APCHA board member and Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman acknowledged the amount of staff time this effort will take and budgetary concerns.

Richards also said she’s concerned that people will experience “feedback fatigue” as APCHA’s communications consultant will roll out a public outreach campaign around its switchover from paper to an automated system.

The subcommittee proposes that the outreach process for the guideline changes to take about two months.

The subcommittee has identified 20 organizations throughout the valley that APCHA members will invite to the input sessions to further spread the word.

McNicholas Kury, in her memo to the APCHA board, acknowledged that changing the guidelines has an effect on people’s homes, lives and basic security, so it has an “emotional quotient, particularly when it has to do with compliance and enforcement issues. The board has recently identified trust within the community as one of its values.”

She also noted that some members of the public prefer to retain their anonymity when interacting with APCHA “due to fears that they will be subject to heightened attention regarding compliance.”

The subcommittee will send a letter to prospective facilitators asking for proposals and fees. Those will get culled down to three options for the board to consider at a future meeting.

csackariason@aspentimes.com


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