Buyer beware of Aspen deed restrictions |

Buyer beware of Aspen deed restrictions

Recently it came to light that many units in Aspen’s affordable housing stock will be relieved of deed restrictions on prices and rents. Paul Menter’s recent column in the Aspen Daily News is one good source. The city’s rush to buy deed restrictions extensions might not be the best policy direction for several reasons.

The properties in question already are pretty old; they’ll be ancient when deed restrictions expire. Suppressing prices and rents well below market always causes owners to neglect maintenance. Centennial’s rental units, for example, will be approaching 100 years of age when the current restrictions expire. They might be uninhabitable by then. Why pay now to extend a deed restriction that might be worthless in 25, 30, 40 years?

Further, it might be foolish enough to negotiate an extension with the owner of a rental project that will be falling down when the extension starts. To obtain extensions from “owners” of individual price controlled units in “owned” units would be a nightmare, with each “owner” jockeying for a holdout price. Overpayment by the city would be inevitable.

Finally, is it certain that buying deed restriction extensions is a lawful use of RETT proceeds? Is it certain an attempt to use RETT that way won’t be tied up in litigation for years?

Paul Menter is right: The city needs an overall plan, not episodic purchases of deed restrictions in a vacuum.

Maurice Emmer