Woman’s battle with Aspen housing board continues
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – Heidi Mines’ struggles with the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority continue.
A year ago, the breast-cancer survivor faced eviction from the deed-restricted East Hopkins Avenue house that she has owned for 18 years because she had been out of work since 2007, primarily because of the battle with her illness.
While the Housing Authority’s board gave her extra time to find work, it also froze the appreciation on her home at $283,000. Mines says she was told that if she found a job, the Housing Authority would rescind its freeze.
Last year, she found employment: two jobs, in fact. Unfortunately for her, neither job worked out – by December she was jobless again – and so she decided in January that she would give up and sell her home.
But the freeze on the appreciation never had been lifted, a point she’s been haggling over with the authority and the board since last summer, when she was working.
“At a meeting last August, and it’s in the minutes, (an official) clearly quoted to me and my brother not to worry about it if I got a full-time job. Well, I had a full-time job,” she said.
Mines was back before the board Wednesday afternoon, arguing that because she did what she was asked to do, she shouldn’t be penalized the roughly $5,500 worth of appreciation that would have accrued from February 2012 until now.
“It’s the principle of the thing,” she said. “I don’t deserve punishment. I’ve already suffered. I found a job, but I couldn’t keep it because it was a driving job, and I’m still on medication (for cancer). There needs to be some flexibility in how these rules are applied to account for circumstances and situations.
“Taking away my appreciation doesn’t do anybody any good. It’s not like the Housing Authority would be getting the money. It’s only hurting me. The only person who will benefit from it is the lucky person who wins the lottery on my house because the maximum value will be reduced.”
Mines said the $5,500 penalty might not seem like much, “but it’s a lot of money to me. One of the only things that has kept me going through all of my ordeals – that made me feel my life wasn’t completely going down the drain – was my homeownership and its value.”
During Wednesday’s public hearing on her case – which followed an executive session that included her issue – board Vice Chairman Ron Erickson said the authority has been more than accommodating to Mines.
“For whatever reason, the applicant has been out of compliance since 2007,” he said. “There have been some legitimate reasons and so on. The guidelines state (she has to work) 1,500 hours a year. I don’t think she’s worked 1,500 hours a year in the last six years.”
Erickson said the Housing Authority is being generous and could have frozen the appreciation many years ago but didn’t officially do so until 13 months ago.
Board member Rick Head made a motion to uphold last year’s decision on the freeze. Erickson seconded it.
They were following a recommendation from the Housing Authority’s qualifications specialist, Julie Kieffer, who wrote in a memorandum that the board could have required Mines to sell the house in August at a maximum resale price of about $259,000. That was its value in July 2007, when Mines stopped working full time to deal with her cancer and began her saga of noncompliance with the rules.
“Staff believes that the board has been fair with Ms. Mines throughout this enforcement process,” Kieffer wrote.
Head’s motion failed on a 2-2 vote. Marcia Goshorn and Bobbie Burkley disagreed with him and Erickson. Another board member who could have broken the tie was absent from the meeting.
The board then voted unanimously to table the matter until its next bimonthly meeting on April 3.
Mines believes she is being unfairly singled out. She said usually when the board cracks down on someone who is out of compliance with the regulations, it’s a legitimate case of an individual trying to milk the system.
“Usually it’s because somebody is trying to cheat; they are lying about their employment, and they don’t need to work,” she said. “That’s why they created the rules. But things have changed. It’s tough to find work these days. They need to revisit their policies.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User