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Multiple-home ownership troubles housing officials

Janet Urquhart

Owners of employee housing who also own a home elsewhere in the valley should have 180 days to sell the free-market residence if they want to keep the employee unit, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Board agreed Wednesday.Actually, the deed restrictions that spell out the rules for individual employee housing units often set an even tighter time frame – 140 days, for example – but the new policy would apply whenever the deed restrictions are silent on the issue. If the deed restriction says 140 days, then it’s 140 days.Both the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners must also OK the policy.The housing office currently has a list of 10 owners or tenants of employee units who are in violation of their deed restrictions because they own another residence in the Roaring Fork drainage. All of the cases have run beyond 180 days already. “It’s a huge compliance issue that we’re dealing with,” said Housing Director Maureen Dobson.In one case, a family owns employee housing and a home in Basalt that is rented out. The Basalt home has been on the market – the price has been lowered three times in two years, but still hasn’t sold, according to the housing office.In those situations, the homeowners have received notices that they are in violation of the housing program’s rules. Ultimately, they may be ordered to vacate the employee unit.In two instances, however, the violations involve couples who work as on-site caretakers and must reside in a unit that is provided to them as part of their employment. The caretaker units are deed restricted as employee housing, though they’re provided rent-free by their employer.Housing board members made no decision yesterday on how those cases should be handled, but two members hinted they’d be willing to make an exception for caretakers.One couple is employed at The Clarendon, a complex of 15 townhouses on the east side of Aspen. They’ve also owned a home in Glenwood Springs for 15 years; it has been on the market for a year but hasn’t sold.They shouldn’t be forced to sell that home anyway, argued Dan Honig, a member of The Clarendon homeowners association board.”It’s their security blanket. What if something happens and they don’t have a job?” he said. The couple can’t retire in the Clarendon apartment, Honig noted. “As a matter of fact, if they stop cutting the grass, they’re out,” he said.Lynne Seeman and her husband are caretakers for an area home and must live on-site.”We have saved, saved, saved and purchased a small condo in Snowmass as a safety net,” Seeman said. They don’t want to sell it in order to keep their jobs, nor lose their jobs because they can’t continue to live in the caretaker unit.Board member Ron Erickson blamed The Clarendon for hiring caretakers who didn’t qualify for deed-restricted housing, since the couple owns other property.Members Sheri Sanzone and Dan Lauer, however, suggested housing staffers return with a policy to address caretaker situations.”I don’t think we should penalize people who are in the business of caretaking and have been able to buy property,” Sanzone said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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