Over dozen people interested in serving on Aspen’s housing board
As the all-citizen board that oversees the local affordable-housing program changes over to have elected officials serve on it later this summer, over a dozen people have so far applied to be part of the new makeup.
Today is the deadline to apply for the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority Board, which sets policy over a program that has around 3,000 deed-restricted units and real estate holdings, valued at over $3 billion.
Three of the current board members have applied, or intend to apply, for the new governing body that is expected to convene in August.
“It’s too important not to,” board member Carson Schmitz said. “There are so many complex issues … the health of the system will be determined by what we do today.”
One of the largest issues facing the program, which was established in the late 1970s and early ’80s, is the aging inventory of units and sweeping deficits in the capital reserves of most homeowners associations.
In recent years, elected officials from Pitkin County and the city of Aspen haven’t been able to agree on how that multimillion-dollar problem should be addressed.
Rather than remain at a stalemate, Pitkin County commissioners and Aspen City Council decided that serving on the board where votes are final will expedite solutions.
The new board will consist of an elected official from the city and the county, along with three volunteer citizens.
As it is now, the APCHA board makes recommendations, which then have to be reviewed and approved by both the county and city.
There has been some controversy between the elected bodies and the citizen board in recent months, mostly related to a lack of communication.
Most APCHA board members feel that elected officials haven’t involved them in the process and have felt ignored as changes were being made to the intergovernmental agreement between the city and county, which oversee APCHA.
Ron Erickson, who resigned earlier this month as the APCHA board chair, said the politics have been distracting and unfair to the citizens who volunteer their time to make the program better.
“I said the hell with it,” he said, adding that he doesn’t support elected officials on the board. “I think we had a great housing board; they don’t feel wanted or needed.”
Erickson said while he normally encourages people to volunteer to serve on the community’s boards and commissions, he isn’t going out of his way to recommend the APCHA board.
Valerie Forbes, who currently serves as treasurer for the board, said last week she doesn’t plan on applying.
She said the board has largely been left out of the discussion on what the city’s plans are for affordable housing, and elected officials haven’t acknowledged the work that they’ve done.
“I don’t feel like I’m doing any good,” she said, adding that a lot of progress has been made that elected officials aren’t aware of. “It’s been a tough time to be on the board.”
Rick Head, who now serves as the board chair, said last week he plans on applying.
“I care about housing. It’s important to the community,” he said.
Fellow board member John Ward also plans on applying for the new board.
“This is a big asset,” he said of the program. “I think this ski town is a unique ski town because people who work here live here and that’s because of the program.”
APCHA board member Becky Gilbert said she doesn’t plan on serving on the housing board again.
“I’m too busy right now and it was stressful enough being on this board,” she said. “It’s going to be a hard board to serve on. … There’s a whole new set of rules for everybody.”
Applications are being taken until end of the day. Interested applicants, who must reside in Pitkin County, can apply online at http://www.pitkincounty.com/citizenboards.
Commissioners and council members will interview applicants July 9.
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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.