Aspen’s housing board forces two residents to sell their units for non-compliance |

Aspen’s housing board forces two residents to sell their units for non-compliance

Couple denied request for higher income tenant

Carolyn Sackariason

The Aspen Times

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board voted unanimously last week to deny a couple’s request to raise the income limit for tenants in their mandatory employee housing unit that’s attached to their Aspen home.

Citing difficulty in the type of tenant they can attract because of the low-income restriction they are required to keep on the apartment, Bill Lipsey and Linda Girvin requested the category be raised.

The request was made through a minor amendment to their 1994 subdivision and was represented by their land-use consultant Chris Bendon.

In a memo to the city of Aspen’s community development department and APCHA, Bendon explained his clients’ position.

“This application seeks to change the deed restriction on the affordable unit to a higher category for a very simple reason. Much has changed since the 1994 approval. Bill and Linda used to be able to rent to teachers, nurses, municipal workers — entry-level professional positions,” Bendon’s memo reads. “Through increases in salaries and a lower indexing of category one, these types of employees no longer qualify to rent Bill and Linda’s apartment.

“Bill and Linda have also experienced various challenges renting to category one tenants with increasing instances of various law enforcement issues, issues with consistent income, transiency and similar undependable behavior.”

APCHA board member Valerie Forbes said this week that she voiced her opposition to the request at the Jan. 16 meeting and took offense at the suggestion that a person’s income is related to behavior, and that Lipsey and Girvin were looking for a better class of people.

“It’s not an appropriate comment,” she said. “My question for APCHA in a situation like that is, ‘isn’t it the homeowner’s responsibility for credit checks’” and other background research on potential tenants?

The annual income limit for a person to live in a category one unit is $37,800 and for two, it’s a combined $43,200.

Lipsey and Girvin were asking for a category three, four or five designation, which has a range of annual incomes for an individual from $98,280 to $181,440.

Bendon clarified his clients’ position on Thursday.

He said rates of pay haven’t kept pace with the income category levels, and no longer can nurses, teachers and other entry-level professionals qualify for category one units.

“In the mid 1990s category one was 95 percent of the [area median income] and now it’s 50 percent,” Bendon said, adding today’s category three income limit would equate to category one in the mid-90s. “They can’t get anywhere near housing the people they used to rent to and would like to.”

This isn’t the first time Lipsey and Girvin have requested that a higher-earning individual be allowed to live in the apartment.

The APCHA Board also considered a similar request in May 2006 but denied it.

And the board reviewed it last January when the homeowners were out of compliance because the tenant at the time had a category four income.

The tenant’s income had increased due to a large commission, according to Bendon.

The board denied the request but left open the opportunity for Lipsey and Girvin to come back after they came back into compliance.

Since then, they have followed the rules and have charged the allowed rent of $645 to a category one tenant.

Lipsey and Girvin also had argued that there is an abundance of lower income category rental projects within the APCHA inventory and are overrepresented.

APCHA’s analysis refutes that claim and argued there are fewer category one rental units than the number of working household earning that annual income.

Lipsey was willing to pay almost $250,000 as a mitigation cost to change the category from one to four.

The local housing board voted this month to force the sale of two deed-restricted workforce units because their owners were out of compliance with the rules of the program.

The first case is Bert Przybylski, who has owned a unit on Teal Court in the Centennial complex since 1997.

He recently had a double-lung transplant, after suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which has kept him from living in Aspen for a few years.

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) was first alerted via a complaint in August 2017 that Przybylski hadn’t been living in his unit for quite some time.

By December of that year, he was approved for a leave of absence through November of 2018.

When he failed to return home, APCHA sent him a notice of violation.

In a Jan. 7 letter, Przybylski requested additional time to return home to recover in Phoenix where he had the surgery.

“I ask for a continuation of my leave as I have every intention of returning to Aspen which has been my home for 40 years,” he wrote to the board as part of his appeal. “I wish I could give you a firm timeline for my return, but given the complications I cannot at this time. My plan is to return to Colorado at lower elevations to see how my body will adjust to elevations gradually. …

“I would hope that you could allow me to return to my community that means so much to me. I have benefited from the housing program perhaps more than anyone else since I got back to the Hunter Longhouse in 1980.”

The board, agreeing with APCHA’s position that units available in the workforce housing inventory are for people who work in Pitkin County full time and live in their homes a minimum of nine months a year, denied Przybylski’s appeal.

He will be given until May 1 to list his home because he is recovering in Arizona, the board agreed. Under the deed restriction guidelines for Przybylski’s unit, the maximum value he can sell it for is $192,814.

The second appeal that the majority of the APCHA board members denied was from Kurt Keller, who was issued a notice of violation in October for failing to meet residency and work requirements.

He has not lived in his deed-restricted unit in the Manor House, located on Aspen Mountain Road, for years.

In 2016, his studio was listed on Craigslist as a rental for $1,300 a month with a year lease.

As APCHA was investigating, Keller’s sister informed the agency that he is living with her in California because he is “not very well,” according to a memo from APCHA compliance Bethany Spitz to the board.

Additionally, APCHA spoke with a representative of the family, who indicated that they do not believe the property has a deed restriction on it.

But APCHA attorney Tom Smith presented the board with a notice of the agency’s restrictions that were filed with the county Clerk and Recorder’s Office in 1994, which was four years before Keller purchased the unit.

Eighteen years ago, Smith had reached out to Keller asking for proof of compliance but Keller never responded.

Keller purchased the property in 1998 for $140,000, roughly $60,000 more than what the price should have been, according to APCHA’s calculations.

The notice of filing of the deed restriction put into the public record shows that the developer of the condominium building received approvals based on the condition that unit No. 6, Keller’s unit, be deed restricted.

Documentation from the subdivision for the Manor House states the studio would be used for an individual as an employee-housing unit for two or three years and then be sold to APCHA for $40,000, “plus the increase based on the national housing cost from June 1, 1978, to the date of sale,” according to Spitz’s memo.

APCHA board member Chris Council said he dissented on the decision for Keller to sell the unit because he disagreed with the required listing price of $153,346.

Council said Keller initially overpaid by $60,000 as a result of whatever missteps occurred years ago.

“In fairness to him, yes, it should be considered a deed restriction but I feel he was taken advantage of,” Council said earlier this month.

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