This year’s housing summit is looking to take on what the over-arching purpose of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) should be.
That includes discussions on how the housing authority should be governed, whether it should incorporate social services into its doctrine and how it should deal with the large portion of the workforce who live in affordable housing and who are due to retire in the next decade.
The summit’s agenda is being formed based on discussions that city staff has had with City Council, the Pitkin County commissioners and the housing authority over the past two months.
The summit will take place over two days and is planned for sometime in mid-September. Both the City Council and the county commissioners were hesitant to make the summit larger than about 40 people, which could limit participants to government officials from the city, county and the housing authority, said Barry Crook, assistant city manager.
The city has earmarked $10,000 to come up with statistical models that asses local affordable housing demand in preparation for the summit.
The issues slated for this year’s summit are different from those of the last housing summit in 2007, Crook said.
The last summit took place over two days when the authority’s most pressing issue was how to keep up with the growing demand for affordable housing. About 70 government officials, business and nonprofit representatives participated.
Discussions at the 2007 summit led the city to purchase land to be developed into affordable housing at the height of the economy when real estate prices were peaking. Those parcels included 488 Castle Creek Road, 802 W. Main St. and the lumberyard near the Aspen Airport Business center, which the city bought for $18.25 million.
Soon after the market crashed and the land value plummeted.
“In hindsight obviously we wish would have waited for the prices to go down,” Crook said. “But I don’t remember anybody saying, ‘Wait to buy the property.’... People always wish they would have known more about the future market, but it was the direction we were given because they were not making more of it and it’s not getting any cheaper.”
As goals are created in preparation for this year’s summit, housing officials have begun looking to the last housing summit to see how successful it was in finding solutions to the authority’s biggest problems.
In a commissioners’ meeting last month, Commissioner Michael Owsley said he was skeptical about the effectiveness of the summit.
“Quite frankly it wasn’t very useful and it got some people in trouble,” Owsley said.
Owsley argued that this year’s summit needs to be focused and stick to pre-established goals in order to avoid the kind of miscalculations that came out of the last one. He suggested focusing on retirees, governance and social services needs.
Meanwhile, housing board members delayed a discussion on how to enforce compliance on affordable housing owners and residents because the whole system could change after the housing summit, they said.
But board member Ron Erickson, who attended the 2007 summit, argued that waiting would be pointless.
“I can’t see any changes being made in the near future from that summit,” Erickson said.
The last summit generally had mixed results, said Tom McCabe, executive director of APCHA. The 2007 summit highlighted a variety of issues including the retirement problem, but it didn’t provide practical solutions to all of the major issues, he said.
The retirement of baby boomers is at hand and the impact on the housing authority is projected to be significant, McCabe said.
“Although we have talked about those [issues] from time to time since, we haven’t seen sweeping changes,” he said. “We are going to speak to that again and I’m hoping we can come up with concrete steps to be taken.”