Aspen’s housing program seeks to educate homeowners on the do’s and don’ts

A sign points to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority office in Aspen.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has lifted its requirement that individuals wanting to buy a deed-restricted unit through the agency must attend and pass a homeowner education class.

APCHA instituted the policy earlier this year, but because of lackluster attendance at the handful of classes that were set up and the agency’s need to tailor them to specific issues within the program, the requirement to provide a “certificate of completion” was put on hold.

“We didn’t have enough information for people,” said Cindy Christensen, deputy director of APCHA. “We’ll make it a requirement next year.”

APCHA held its first homebuyer education class in March. Christensen said that one and a subsequent one were well attended, but the next two didn’t garner the same interest.

The classes were advertised that, beginning May 1, at least one member of each household interested in purchasing housing through APCHA — including current owners — would need to take the class or one of the approved online courses. Christensen said the online classes are tailored more toward lending and not to the APCHA program, which has issues that are unique to home ownership.

The agency wants to include that information and educate homeowners on what the responsibilities are to participate within APCHA.

Deficits in capital reserves within homeowner associations and not adequately maintaining deed-restricted units are issues officials have been grappling with for years.

“It might be a subsidized price to buy a unit, but it’s free market to take care of it,” Christensen said. “And 99 percent of the time, we don’t really know how strong the HOA is.”

Those topics, along with many other issues homeowners need to understand, will be included in an education class specifically designed for APCHA owners, Christensen added.

She said the agency also is working on a YouTube video that will focus on “affordable housing 101” topics.

The classes also are meant to focus on budgeting, what types of loans are available and how to manage finances around home ownership.

APCHA plans to do more outreach in the future, Christensen said, noting the “Lunch & Learn” seminar held last week that was focused on capital improvements. About 40 people attended.

“We plan to do more of those next year,” she said.