Editorial: We can’t put our opinion of the ‘wait list’ in a headline
May 31, 2002
We think the Housing Authority’s move toward doing away with the notorious, seemingly endless waiting list for rental apartments is a step in the right direction.That list now contains a daunting 700 or so names, which amounts to a disheartening wait for anyone who puts his name at the bottom of the list – and a prohibitively long wait for someone who discovers that, as often happens in this town, he needs a new place to live right now!Under the current system, when a unit becomes available, Housing Authority staffers start calling people, working their way down from the top of the list until they find someone who agrees to rent the open unit. If people on the list happen to be out of town when their name comes up, they miss their chance. If people, for whatever reason, turn down two chances to rent a unit, they go back to the bottom of the list.It’s an unpleasant system and no one likes it. Prospective renters hate the thought of the wait that lies ahead of them to get an affordable place to live. Housing Authority staffers hate the fact that when a unit comes up they may have to make as many as a hundred phone calls to find someone who is ready and willing to move. Housing Board Chairman Tim Semrau summed it succinctly when he said, “We all agree that the wait list sucks.”The new proposal calls for simply advertising when an apartment becomes available. Those who are interested can call and apply to rent the unit. The applicant who has worked in Pitkin County the longest would get the apartment.Naturally, there are complications to this approach. Interested renters would have to document their local employment history. There would be significant paperwork involved in that process, particularly for those who have been working here the longest – and are, therefore, the most qualified. Coming up with 20 years of W2 forms is certainly a daunting project, but we think a way can be found to accommodate those who have truly been living and working here “forever.” And doing the paperwork has got to be less of a chore than waiting for years to reach the top of the current list.It is also true that this proposed system would pretty much eliminate any newcomers from hopes of getting a Housing Authority rental unit. This is unfortunate. Aspen needs new blood. But there are other opportunities for those who are new to town. Indeed, over the years, showing the ingenuity and determination to find a place to live in a tough town has been the price of admission to Aspen for young workers. We don’t want to wax poetic about the delights of ski bum living – half a dozen to a studio apartment and first one home gets the bed. But we’ve all been there, as the saying goes.And those who have been there – those who have been here, who have paid the price of admission, who have surfed the couches of Aspen and slept on too many floors to count – deserve a break. More to the point, they’ve earned a break.And perhaps more important than their entitlement to a hard-earned benefit is the community’s entitlement. We are entitled to have people living here who have proved that they truly want to be here.So we urge the Housing Authority to push forward and work out the details and get rid of the wait list. Because we, too, think it sucks.
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