Aspen’s affordable housing program has been an enormous boon to the preservation of the vitality and the viability of Aspen as a legitimate community and not just a tourist destination. Like any public program, it contains flaws and areas for improvement. The possibility for Aspen’s program to be even more successful moving forward only needs the attention of the officials who oversee it and the awareness that it is not perfect and contains some pitfalls that can be improved upon. Currently, APCHA’s policy is to buy or build housing which can be sold well below free market rates. Unfortunately, in many cases this means that the property they are offering for sale may be sub-standard quality in order to achieve the necessary costs limitations and must be repaired or reconstructed by the owners as problems arise. Of course, repairs are contracted at current construction rates and material costs often rendering the project unaffordable to the unfortunate owners at the time. Due to current APCHA rules, owners either must take on the expense of repairs without any equity gain, value adjustment or recompense or allow the property to degrade due to limitations of financial resources and deed-restriction rules. Any current or future affordable housing owner may suddenly find themselves in a situation where a property they obtained through our lottery system, purchased in good faith under numerous rules of deed restriction becomes uninhabitable or in need of tens of thousands in repairs to keep it so.
Centennial condos in Aspen is a perfect example. Built by first-time developer Sam Brown in 1984 without the large public subsidies current projects enjoy, the Centennial project was not able to meet the impossibly low projected costs and was built as quickly and cheaply as possible so that it would still be worthwhile to the private developer to build, sell and manage and would meet the expectations of the Pitkin County officials who approved it.