Kosdrosky: APCHA’s PR issue has deeper roots | AspenTimes.com

Kosdrosky: APCHA’s PR issue has deeper roots

Mike Kosdrosky
Guest column

The cliché “the more things change, the more they stay the same” came to mind after reading The Aspen Times’ article “Fear, distrust of Aspen’s housing program a growing concern” last week.

As a former executive director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, I believe the organization’s problems have more to do with politics than public relations. Although both are clearly at issue, one looms large over the other.

APCHA’s governance structure determines its politics. Under Colorado law, any combination of cities, towns and counties may contract with each other to establish “a separate government entity to be known as a multi-jurisdictional housing authority.” The key phrase here being “separate government entity.”

But, is APCHA a separate government entity independent from the political whims and controls of either the city or county?

In 2012, three years before I started with APCHA, the all-citizens APCHA volunteer board hired a third-party law firm out of Boulder to investigate this very question.

According to the law firm, all housing authorities in Colorado are authorized by state law and defined by intergovernmental agreements. Once created by any combination of contracting local governments, every housing authority should act as an independent governmental unit. But, “at some point … an entity would cease to be an independent governmental unit if the governments that created it take over all of its decision-making functions.”

In 2019, the city and county amended the agreement governing APCHA that replaced the all-citizen board with a hybrid of citizens and elected officials. This “reform” measure gave elected officials from the city and county not only a direct seat at the housing policy table, but also an oversized influence on any of APCHA’s little remaining administrative independence.

In short, the city and county doubled down on demoting APCHA to a department of the city without calling it that. They did so despite warnings from the previous all-citizens APCHA board at the time in The Aspen Times and the 2012 legal opinion, which stated: “Regardless of the financial relationship between the parties or delegation of APCHA duties to the city, the APCHA is not a department or division of the city or county. It is an independent political subdivision.”

Anyone who knows APCHA knows that it is not currently run as a separate government entity nor as an independent housing authority as intended under state law. Anyone who says otherwise strains the limits of credulity.

APCHA clearly has a public-relations problem. But, that problem is just a symptom of a much larger issue, which is the politics of its intergovernmental agreement as defined by its overreaching creators.

Mike Kosdrosky, MPA, is the principal and owner of Workforce Housing Solutions.