Milias: A letter of distrust to APCHA |

Milias: A letter of distrust to APCHA

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant
Elizabeth Milias

Dear Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority board and staff:

It’s true, the community does not trust you. No amount of communication consultant’s work will change the fact thatAPCHA is widely disrespected. APCHA, a $3-billion asset, can no longer effectively fulfill its obligation to the community and instead operates as a rogue, social-welfare organization instead of a 3,127-unit, publicly-subsidized housing program.

Instead of supporting workforce housing, APCHA’s numerous conflated and antiquated guidelines and policies have resulted in a corrupt bureaucracy full of entangled carve-outs, exceptions and permissiveness. Your in-the-dark operations perpetuate an archaic status quo by rewarding bad actors, enacting bad policies and practicing bad governance when you practice any at all.

What should be the source of community pride has become a shameful entitlement program, festering with corruption, secrecy, bad faith and abuse. In many cases, your own “rules” allow — and even encourage — this, so change them. As those whose job it is to administer a program intended to house the local workforce, you have betrayed the community by not adapting the program to dramatically changing times and ensuring its existence into the future.

  • APCHA is anti-worker. In order to qualify, one must live here for at least four years. Also, employers cannot enter the housing lottery to obtain housing for their own employees. Most units are sold vs. rented, and it only matters on the day of closing where one works or the income one earns. (After that, you’re set for life.) Increasing income limits for renters already in the system continues to keep lower-income workers out.
  • APCHA operates in a vacuum with zero transparency. While legally an independent multi-jurisdictional housing authority, APCHA has conveniently become a secretive department of the city of Aspen.
  • APCHA enables abuse. Employment rules allow for gig work, as long as it is performed from one’s desk in Pitkin County (think: Google, Lockheed). It is also perfectly legal to own a chateau in France, as well as investment properties elsewhere. One can retire in one’s unit after just four years.
  • APCHA disrespects buyers of older units. The disgraceful case of 16 Ajax Avenue drags on, with APCHA still conniving to sell an uninhabitable, condemnable home to a local couple while passing along its original cost (plus the costs of demo and reconstruction) without increasing the maximum resale price for the new owners. The unconscionable communiques out of APCHA can be best summarized as “not our problem,” when fault and responsibility lie entirely therewith.
  • APCHA ignores impending issues. Doing nothing will not stop the “silver tsunami” of retirees in subsidized housing, expiring deed restrictions and detrimental impacts of underfunded capital reserves throughout the portfolio. Nor will it make these go away. It just means one thing: Even less housing for the actual workforce.
  • APCHA guarantees appreciation yet permits owners to sell abject slums. The guaranteed simple appreciation (3% or CPI, whichever is less) is intended to reimburse owners for unit maintenance over time. Have you seen the condition of the latest pigsty that had over 20 bidders? It is not rational to do anything but pocket the appreciation cash.
  • APCHA’s Hometrek database is a farce. Millions spent to design a state-of-the-art, housing-information system to enable public access to prices, rents, affordability, incomes, occupants and employers have been effectively squandered on what is now an inefficient staff database, lamely populated with useless data that is not available to the public, making clear that specific knowledge about the program is not a priority, even internally.
  • APCHA’s bi-annual affidavit is toothless and worthless. It’s simply an online check-the-box to affirm one works 1,500 hours/year in Pitkin County.
  • APCHA refuses to make the hard decisions necessary to save the program. It is well past time to audit the program. Data collection for a publicly-subsidized program should have been collected annually all along. Ignoring the facts because residents are “fearful” is not responsible management.

Today the community has a worker shortage, and it is obvious why. By refusing to independently audit our housing inventory to learn who lives in our housing, their income and employment status in order to inform future housing decisions, you are not just ignoring the problem. You have become it.

In its current form, APCHA cannot survive. It is set to collapse under its own weight with the “silver tsunami” that will remove over 1,000 bedrooms from inventory in the coming decade, over 300-unit permanent loss (representing 450 bedrooms) from upcoming expiring deed restrictions, plans for a $500 million expenditure to build 277 units outside the roundabout at the Lumberyard with little rental housing for the workforce, program-wide underfunded homeowners-association reserves responsible for severely deteriorating inventory, the pending Burlingame Phase 2 $8 million construction-defect lawsuit verdict and the mysterious Burlingame Phase 3 construction delay.

This shameful chapter must end. If APCHA is ever to regain any semblance of credibility, it must be completely overhauled with a dramatically redefined mission and a new board and staff committed to new, transparent operations that provide much-needed housing on a moving-forward basis for Aspen’s actual workforce.


Your neighbors who paid the RETT

Aspen, CO

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