Officials mull changes to Aspen housing program | AspenTimes.com

Officials mull changes to Aspen housing program

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Issues involving supply and demand in the city of Aspen and Pitkin County’s joint affordable-housing program, as well as capital reserves for maintenance and repairs, were discussed at length during a City Hall meeting Thursday.

Aspen city councilmen, Pitkin County commissioners and members of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board participated in the work session on housing, which previously had been touted as a summit. They accepted 45 minutes of public comment from people in the audience who called for or were concerned about possible changes to the program.

The meeting was designed to give city staff direction on potential policy changes that can be presented to council members and county commissioners for a future public vote. No formal decisions were made, Mayor Mick Ireland said.

One discussion topic asked whether government should have a role in requiring homeowners’ associations to maintain a certain amount of money in their capital-reserve funds so that if emergencies arise, the homeowners’ associations aren’t asking local governments for a bailout.

Ireland said staff will explore the feasibility of local government loans to the underfunded homeowners’ associations, some of which face costly and massive repair projects at their respective complexes.

Councilman Adam Frisch said the issue of providing incentives to homeowners who retire from the local work force arose early in the meeting.

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Officials fear that over the next decade or so, a large portion of units will be occupied by retirees, which defeats the purpose of one of the program’s goals – to house local workers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to buy homes in Pitkin County.

One idea that was floated: getting retirees to downsize into smaller homes after their children have left the nest and they no longer need a three-bedroom dwelling.

Some homeowners have expressed an interest in moving from Aspen into smaller units downvalley, Frisch said.

“Some of the guidelines prevent people from doing that easily because they need a place to live first before they leave, but they can’t own something else while they’re in the (housing authority) program,” he said.

The meeting facilitator was Colin Laird, director of Carbondale-based Healthy Mountain Communities.