Misinformation about Centennial homeowners
December 2, 2014
"Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
— Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis
CentennialDisclosed.org was created so that Aspen and Pitkin County residents, elected officials and government staff can have an accurate account of the history of Centennial Condominiums, the largest affordable-housing project in Aspen. Due to inherent design flaws and construction defects determined by industry experts, Centennial faces a dire crisis.
False and misleading information has been provided to the public so that only the 92 current owners are given full blame and responsibility for the horrific condition of the buildings; pervasive water intrusion has caused leaks, structural damage and mold throughout all seven buildings for nearly their entire existence.
Shortly after the first owners took possession in 1985, problems with water intrusion began occurring. Homeowners' association records show numerous studies being commissioned, extensive repairs and alterations taking place and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the water-intrusion issues in addition to regular maintenance. As it turned out, these efforts were not enough to correct the poor design and shoddy construction. Even the 148 rental units, still owned and managed by the original developer, were forced to undertake eight years of comprehensive repairs even after years of maintenance. Unfortunately, no amount of maintenance short of a redesign and rebuild could have prevented these problems, as experts have stated.
As an Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority property, these condos have been re-bought and re-sold dozens of times by the housing authority to housing-lottery winners, with the housing authority collecting a 2 percent commission on each sale. Until July, the seller's property disclosure forms mandated by Colorado real estate law and provided with every sale never indicated the well-studied, long-standing water, mold, roof and structural problems to unwitting buyers.
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Since it will take more than $3.2 million to fix the damage and prevent future problems, even after nearly $1 million has already been spent, Centennial owners have requested that the government entities that regulate and profit from Centennial's existence accept some responsibility for their housing inventory. Owners have been living with cold, leaky, mold-infested, structurally unsound homes while budgeting responsibly and paying substantial dues in order to fund capital reserves and repairs. The housing authority's deed restriction caps appreciation at 3 percent and disallows capital improvements that correct design and structural problems from increasing equity and resale values. While owners' incomes and assets are capped, no limit is placed on what an affordable-housing owner must spend to maintain an inherently flawed property.
While most every housing authority project is subsidized through city and county housing funds, with current projects receiving nearly $400,000 in per-unit subsidies, Centennial was unsubsidized, was built entirely with private funds and received no public money. The developer was plagued with financial problems while being forced to make $1.8 million in concessions to Pitkin County and Aspen in addition to mitigating the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site on which it was built. The quality of these homes suffered from the lack of subsidy, the developer's unrealistic promises and need to profit and the extraordinary contingencies required from his city and county partners, including restrictions placed on sales and rental prices.
Both city and county housing funds are flush and ever-increasing. The city will have $41 million by 2022 after spending $65 million to $85 million to subsidize its latest project. Pitkin County has $10 million from its development-mitigation fees.
Wouldn't a worthwhile investment be a collaboration with current and future owners to preserve Centennial as a community asset?
CentennialDisclosed.org is intended to provide a factual and comprehensive record of the realities of the Centennial project. All information has been extensively researched and verified from official documents and studies, expert testimonials, media reports and firsthand accounts. Any details that can be shown to be inaccurate will be corrected or removed. Contributions that shed more light on this subject are gladly accepted.
Our request is that decisions on the fate of Centennial be made with full knowledge of its history and the actions of its owners. Accusations that owners deferred maintenance and were negligent and financially irresponsible should cease if the records prove otherwise.
Jason Closic is a Centennial Homeowners Association board member.
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