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S’mass: For top dollar, take care of your unit

Sarah S. Chung

The Snowmass Village Town Council took a step Monday to lessen the harsh reality of “buyer beware” for those in the market for employee housing.

In a work session with housing officials, most council members agreed that buyers deserve some protection against paying top dollar for a “trashed” apartment or condominium.

“There’s just no reason someone should pay the maximum price for a substandard unit,” said Councilman Doug Mercatoris.

Currently, sellers of employee units automatically receive the maximum sale price, within the deed restriction, regardless of the unit’s condition at closing.

“Units turn over in such different conditions, it’s not fair to new buyers,” said town Housing Director Joe Coffey.

There was strong support for Coffey’s recommendation to deduct from the sale price if a unit is deemed “substandard.” The goal, however, is to bring all employee units up to snuff.

“We’re not saying you have to make improvements. All we’re saying is you have to maintain what you originally got,” Coffey said.

But Councilman Jack Hatfield disagreed with taking the stick rather than carrot approach to the problem.

“I find it patently unfair to penalize everyone for the sake of a few bad apples,” Hatfield said. “We’re saying, `We’ll penalize you, but we won’t reward pride of ownership.’ “

Hatfield had support from Creekside resident and council member Bob Bindseil, who noted, “the reason things get run-down is that there’s no incentive.”

Hatfield and Bindseil, however, expressed the minority viewpoint that owners should be compensated for improvements to employee units.

The policy of giving owners credit for improvements has fluctuated as new faces came onto the council. But the current housing staff, the board of Mountain View employee housing and most council members now agree that keeping sale prices affordable should take precedence over rewarding capital improvements.

“It’s not fair to ask buyers to pay for things which weren’t their decision to do. One of the most important things we can do is to keep affordable housing, affordable,” said Mercatoris of passing on the cost of “lifestyle choices.”

It may not seem fair to not get credit for investing in your property, Mayor T. Michael Manchester noted. But there should be different rules for employee housing – a commodity that’s partially supported by taxpayers’ money, the mayor added.

“Ownership in employee housing is a privilege,” Manchester said. “It’s underwritten with significant dollars from the public and there’s a responsibility that comes with that.”


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