Time to change housing rules | AspenTimes.com

Time to change housing rules

Dear Editor:This letter is a follow-up to a letter written to the housing office and The Aspen Times regarding Aspen’s new second-home owners.First of all I would like to thank Cindy Christensen and Julie Kieffer at the housing office for their time and input. They were knowledgeable, courteous and willing to respond to my concerns. They confirmed that Mr. X was in compliance with the current subsidized housing guidelines because he owned “unimproved” real estate in Basalt. Again, this is a good situation for Mr. X, but is this what we are trying to create with our subsidized (employee) housing?Per my discussion with Cindy and Julie, the current subsidized housing guidelines basically state that you can own improved and unimproved real estate outside of Pitkin and Eagle counties and unimproved real estate in Pitkin and Eagle counties. To take this to the extreme, I confirmed that you could own numerous unimproved lots on Red Mountain and live in subsidized housing. Both Cindy and Julie expressed that they did not think it was in the spirit of subsidized housing to own other real estate and it has created a very gray area at the housing office. The current rules regarding owning other property and living in subsidized housing are ambiguous at best and difficult to enforce.I believe these ambiguous rules create a lot of acrimony and misunderstanding within the community. If an “employee” has discretionary money, the current guidelines provide no incentive to move up to free-market units. They encourage the purchasing of second homes. Did we create subsidized housing for “employees” to live in the rest of their lives and buy investment real estate?I cannot support any more subsidized housing under the current guidelines. After discussion with the housing office, I propose the following amendments to the current subsidized housing guidelines (the current owners would have to be grandfathered in under the rules that they bought their units):• The only piece of real estate you may own is the subsidized unit in Pitkin County. No improved or unimproved real estate, LLCs, trust properties, or whatever. Period. This is black and white, no gray area and easy to enforce.• Tax returns would be submitted every year to validate that no other real estate is owned. Period. Again this is black and white and easy to enforce.Some of the current employee housing “needs” may be alleviated if we do not subsidize employees who can speculate in real estate. How much employee housing “needs” are there if we are only subsidizing those who need it? Also let’s not forget those employees who sold free-market units to move into subsidized housing and those that will do so in the future. Is that demand included in the “need” for subsidized housing?I believe changes such as these would bring harmony to the community regarding subsidized housing rather than being the divisive issue that it is now.Rob GileAspen

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