Lose your job in Pitkin County, lose your home? | AspenTimes.com

Lose your job in Pitkin County, lose your home?

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Local workers who lose their jobs as a result of the recession are worried about losing something else at the same time ” their homes.

As more Aspenites find themselves out of work thanks to the recession, they also are realizing that because they live in government-controlled employee housing in the Aspen area, they must find replacement jobs somewhere within Pitkin County or be evicted.

The city and county’s housing regulations require that a person work for an employer full time and at least nine months a year in Pitkin County.

The Aspen Pitkin County Affordable Housing Authority controls more than 2,800 affordable housing units, whether through rental and management arrangements, or through a system of deed restricted sales that determine who can buy a government-subsidized condo, townhouse or home and what the price will be.

The question of employment versus housing came up at a meeting at the Aspen Community Church on Feb. 19, where officials from area health and human services agencies talked with residents about how they are being affected by the slumping economy.

One woman noted that she lost her job in Aspen but can’t take anything that opens up in, say, Glenwood Springs, because it is outside Pitkin County and, as a resident of affordable housing, she could lose her home.

Housing authority Executive Director Tom McCabe acknowledged that the woman’s situation is something that the housing board may soon have to deal with.

“At some point, that will be an issue to take before the board,” McCabe said, saying it will be up to the board members to decide “how vigorously we ought to pursue” cases where residents of deed-restricted housing units are forced to work outside the county as a result of the recession.

Concerning rental housing, McCabe said it may be that the board will be able to grant special dispensation to residents who can pay their rent, even if they do work outside the county.

“I would think the board would offer some forgiveness,” he said, but added hastily, “I can’t speak for the board.”

McCabe said he has heard stories of some residents of affordable rental units who have lost their jobs, but has yet to hear of any evictions due to nonpayment of rents.

“We don’t knock on their door every day and ask them what they’re doing,” he said, adding that it would be the responsibility of the managers at the rental properties owned or controlled by the housing authority, who would initiate eviction proceedings.

“In some cases, if they’re going to be a couple of weeks late … we’re gonna let it go because everybody has a tough time every now and then,” McCabe said, adding that is due to a combination of compassion and the recognition that getting a local worker qualified for housing takes time and effort, and is not to be tossed lightly aside.

Even though there has been no sign of that kind of disruption in the lives of workers living in affordable housing, McCabe predicted, “This spring, when the ski season comes to an end and people boogie … that may really hurt some people.”

He said there typically is a period of time between the end of one high season and the beginning of another that people must plan for, if their jobs are of a seasonal nature.

“If they don’t have any savings, they might not be able to last until the summer,” he said as an example of possible trouble.

But if a renter can show that he or she has a job lined up for the coming season, McCabe said, “we’ll probably require that they sign a promissory note” pledging to pay the rent when the paychecks come in. Plus, he said, the board may agree to some rental rate adjustments due to the harsh economic realities facing local workers.

“When people work with us, it’s much better than when they try to duck us,” he said.

McCabe said he also has warned the housing board that unless economic conditions improve, there may be a rise in vacancies in the seasonal housing inventory.

And that, he said, could affect the authority’s ability to keep up its payments on outstanding bonds and loans that were used to pay the development costs of the housing projects.


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