Paperwork error raises questions for housing officials |

Paperwork error raises questions for housing officials

Aspen Times Staff Report

Owners of a resident-occupied housing unit at Alpine Cottages are asking to sell their unit to the buyer of their choosing, though the deed restrictions call for all units to be sold through a lottery.

Dave and Phyllis Starensier have made the request to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority. The Housing Board is scheduled to take it up Wednesday.

Existing housing guidelines allow all owners of RO housing to sell their units to a buyer of their choosing who qualifies under the employee housing rules. The Starensiers expected to have that ability at Alpine Cottages in Aspen’s east end, but the deed restrictions at the project indicate otherwise.

That is due to an error in the filing of deed restrictions for the project, according to Tim Semrau, a Housing Board member and developer of Alpine Cottages.

“The intent was that the ROs have a different set of deed restrictions – to let owners sell them to whomever they want,” Semrau said yesterday. “In this particular case, it was an absolute paperwork mistake. We should go with the intent and we should let them do it.”

However, the Housing Board recently voted to bring RO units – the most expensive category of affordable housing – under the same rules as other units and sell them through the lottery process.

Reports of under-the-table dealings in which RO units went to the highest bidder, with buyers paying RO owners extra cash in excess of the set sale price of a unit, prompted the call to bring RO into the lottery process.

The Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners must also approve that rule change.

However, RO units with specific deed restrictions allowing owners to sell their units to a buyer of their choice will be exempt even with the change in rules, Semrau said. So, the Housing Board must decide what rules will apply at Alpine Cottages.

One option, according to a memo written by Housing Director Mary Roberts, is to allow existing owners of RO units at Alpine Cottages to sell their units to the buyer of their choosing, but make it known to all future RO owners there that sales must go through the housing office.

Alpine Cottages was opened to residents in early last fall.

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