Where the worker bees (should) live
Nothing brings out the Bolshevik in me more than housing cheats. The Bolshevik it brings out in me isn’t the “workers joining hands and marching into a brighter future” Bolshevik. The Bolshevik it brings out in me is the “drag the Romanovs out into the backyard, blow their heads off and bury them in an unmarked grave” Bolshevik. The pissed-off one. And I don’t even have to sit in commuter traffic twice a day; imagine if I did. It’s news stories in the local papers that has me thinking about this stuff.A woman named Amanda Tucker is being sued by the Housing Authority. Every two years the Housing Authority requests a notarized affidavit from tenants and owners of employee housing units demonstrating they still qualify for said employee housing. Dr. Tucker has not been able to find the time to respond to this request. In fact, Dr. Tucker has never, since she purchased her Ritz-Carlton Club affordable unit at a foreclosure auction, demonstrated that she qualified for employee housing. Dr. Tucker, an anesthesiologist, said that she’s “doubtful” she earned more last year than the $91,000 salary cap attached to that unit. She stated that she billed herself out at $40 per hour. I felt terrible, $40 per hour is a fraction of what a Roaring Fork Valley plumber makes. I wanted to call her and ask her if she owned a pipe wrench. You know, give her a raise. I’m sure that anyone who can make it through medical school could develop a plumber’s crack in no time.Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a number for her. Nonetheless, the poor woman is really getting screwed. I don’t know about this valley specifically, but nationally, anesthesiologist earn from $242,886 per year ($121 per hour) to $334,121 a year ($167 per hour). This is based on 40-hour weeks and 50-week years. A nurse anesthetist makes anything from $104,000 per year ($52 per hour) to $180,000 a year ($90 per hour).Why is this good woman underselling herself? And if the reason she isn’t making any money is because she hasn’t been working, in what sense is she an employee?Dr. Tucker paid $179,000 for her unit. The net asset ceiling to qualify to purchase it is $150,000. The Aspen Daily News has reported that Dr. Tucker owns six properties in Hawaii. If you add up their estimated value, it comes to something like $4 million. That’s far more than $150,000. If this continues to play itself out the way it’s headed, it will be the most egregious abuse of worker housing since Cathy Tripodi.You remember Cathy. She moved to D.C. to take a job, and instead of selling her unit, like several people who have simply taken jobs downvalley have been forced to do, she sublet it for twice the allowable amount. The only reason she got caught was because when her tenant victims moved out, she refused to return their damage deposit – and they ratted her out. I’m pretty sure her job in D.C. was with the Bush administration.In 2005 there were 64 reported complaints of cheating in regard to worker housing. After being investigated, these complaints resulted in 16 units being put up for sale and four rental units opening up. County Commissioner Mick Ireland tells me that usually about one-third of citizen complaints results in action being taken. He says that out of 2,400 units there aren’t really too many problems of this sort and that right now there are probably less than a few dozen cases pending. One problem is that every time the Housing Authority has to take someone to court it costs us money. The lawyer for the Housing Authority bills the Housing Authority. They pay it out of their budget, and their budget comes out of our tax dollars. It’s our money.Next time you’ve been sitting in traffic for a long, long time trying to get into town, you might want to take a right at the rotary and shoot up to Highlands. You could knock on Amanda Tucker’s door and ask her how her day is going so far. There might have been one less vehicle in that traffic jam if an actual employee had been living there, and a little less taxpayer money might be wasted if we didn’t have to sue her. You could also tell her that she should give herself a raise.I’m not sure if the 2,400 units Mick is talking about are “built for employees” deed-restricted units, or if they include EDUs, ADUs and CDUs.An EDU is an employee-designated unit. Mr. Rich Guy has to build it into his umpteen-thousand-square-foot mansion as part of his deal with the city/county. He has to rent it out to a worker bee, so it is effective employee housing. An ADU is an accessory-designated unit, and a CDU is a caretaker-designated unit. These have to be built, but don’t have to be rented out. This makes them useless in my mind. These people don’t need the rental income, and if you don’t need the dough, who needs grubby employees running around?As we speak there are seven cute, new townhomes sitting empty on River Road. They were built in conjunction with the development of Chaparral Ranch as employee housing. They’re in my neighborhood so I happen to know there hasn’t been any construction activity there all winter. They must be finished. The Housing Authority tells me they’re the type of housing that has to be sold/rented to workers. I asked: Why do they wait empty, while a lot of workers wait in traffic? An attorney for Chaparral told me there was a problem with the septic/water situation, but couldn’t elaborate. First, I’m amazed that, with what architects and engineers get paid around here, problems of this nature could arise after a project is virtually complete. Second, it’s my understanding that Chaparral is owned by Cornerstone LLC, which is in turn, I understand, owned by Tom McClosky.We all affectionately remember Mr. McClosky as the nice man who moved heaven and earth to try to prevent people from walking by his house on their way to Hunter Creek. I’m sorry, but I don’t think Mr. McClosky worries too much about the workers of this valley.It’ll be nice when those places are doing some employees some good, and when all employee housing is occupied by employees.
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