Elizabeth Milias: The runaway APCHA train has officially jumped the track | AspenTimes.com

Elizabeth Milias: The runaway APCHA train has officially jumped the track

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant

Dear APCHA Board, City Council and BOCC officials, and City and County Managers:

Our subsidized housing program is in crisis. Subsidized housing is a community asset and your continued inaction and lack of program oversight can no longer be tolerated. It does not border on neglect, it is neglect.

The APCHA attorney has confirmed that today APCHA cannot legally require maintenance nor can it prevent owners from accumulating excessive liens on their property. As a result, the program is rife with widespread physical neglect and deterioration, and has enormous financial liability due to unknown liens. Drastic and immediate changes are needed today.

16 Ajax Avenue is a glaring example. The free-standing modular home has been under contract since August 2020, a lengthy escrow that reflects the agonizing process the buyers have endured while trying to buy a home in terrible disrepair. There are liens on the property exceeding twice its value, and the sale cannot occur until the title is clean. Currently seeking bankruptcy protection, which won’t happen until court fees are paid, the seller neglected the property for a decade before abandoning it altogether. In December, without heat, the pipes froze and burst causing massive and detrimental water damage. Inspectors have deemed it uninhabitable. Professional recommendations are to scrape and replace it, but Aspen’s onerous permits, fees and regulations for new construction preclude this as a viable financial option for the buyers. Their best course of action is to gut and rebuild the existing home to make it habitable. Not fancy, not lavish. Habitable. This will cost well north of $200K. Added to the $304K purchase price when the APCHA-capped resale limit is $406K, this makes no sense. APCHA doesn’t care. Take it or leave it; they can sell it to the next guy.

APCHA was fully aware of serious structural issues and the home’s abhorrent condition prior to it being listed for sale. Furthermore, once under contract, APCHA, serving as a transactional broker, effectively washed its hands of the issues, repeatedly directing the buyers to negotiate with the seller on the long list of fixes which have never been addressed. APCHA notably ignored the buyers’ requests to turn on the heat in the fall, directly resulting in the burst pipes and water damage. “Not our fault” is APCHA’s response to this entire mess. Really? Whose then?

All the buyers want is a home of their own with a little yard, which they legitimately won in the lottery. Having liquidated investments eight months ago for the purchase, the buyers have not only been through hell but have incurred both real and opportunity costs: foregone investment appreciation, increased mortgage interest rates, exclusion from subsequent housing lotteries, payment of experts and time expended. Where many would have walked away, these buyers are willing to spend the money, do the work and fix the home. They simply want to recoup their investment in the repair of damages that are a direct result of APCHA’s failed policies. Tearing up the contact doesn’t make the problem go away. Nor does “Oh, sorry. Better luck next time” reflect our community values. APCHA has clearly lost its way.

Is anyone actually surprised? The only surprise should be that this community has tolerated such feckless program governance for this long. There are no rules to address the critical issues, and where there are rules, they are ineffective. There is no one and no way to enforce them.

Today is the day for two emergency changes to the APCHA guidelines. Just as you have enacted emergency legislation in the past with sanctuary city policies, building moratoriums and public health orders, these are no less critical. I recognize that APCHA is discussing changes to maintenance requirements, but we no longer have the benefit of time. Do that research and conduct those surveys, but do it after enacting the immediate requirement of a formal inspection and completion of recommended maintenance and repairs prior to listing a unit for sale. Let’s get the horse in front of the cart where it belongs. If research yields the need to further hone the details, so be it, but in the meantime we will be protecting our housing stock and, more importantly, respecting the hard working people who are purchasing it. Secondly, prohibit the accumulation of liens exceeding the value of the property and require lien status in the mandated affidavit.

The sale of 16 Ajax Avenue to the contracted buyers must be assured. Make the necessary and binding commitments to protect the buyers. Raise their resale cap. Do not punish them further with outdated and failed policies and a program that lacks supervision and control. There are perfectly good reasons to make special exceptions. This is one. Just get it done. The financial costs to APCHA are not going to decrease with further delays, nor are they going to vanish. And regarding any concerns about “setting a precedent,” this becomes moot with the emergency maintenance mandate.

I implore you to immediately take this long overdue action. The leisurely days of surveys, consultants, goal-setting and other bureaucratic tiddlywinks in the name of addressing housing policy are over. The status quo is no longer an option.

APCHA’s failed policies have become a community embarrassment. Enough is enough. Contact TheRedAntEM@comcast.net


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