The city of Aspen is warning homeowners in the affordable housing program that they need to fill out compliance forms or else they could be forced to sell their unit, after a recent audit received a 10 percent response rate.
The Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) is choosing 100 affordable housing owners at random who didn’t return an affidavit saying they were in compliance last year to be the subject of a more stringent audit. Those selected are asked to prove that they are still in compliance based on the APCHA guidelines, which require residents to work in Pitkin County for a minimum of 1,500 hours a year, not own other property in the valley and maintain the unit as their sole residence. That typically requires owners to provide the housing authority with a copy of their most recent tax return.
The housing authority requires those living in rentals to requalify through APCHA every two years. People who own affordable housing units are sent affidavits every two years, which they are required to sign and get notarized, vouching that they are still in compliance with the guidelines, but they need not send in their tax return or other documentation. In the last effort, about 1,400 affidavits were sent out and 199, or 15 percent, were not returned. Reasons ranged from apathy to political dissent.
APCHA mailed the first 10 notices to homeowners on Nov. 9. The deadline to return them was on Friday, but only one person responded, said Julie Kieffer, the housing authority’s qualifications specialist.
A City Hall press release issued Friday asked the holdouts to get their paperwork in.
The sparse response was unexpected and she doesn’t know why people wouldn’t reply, she said. Still, Kieffer doesn’t think it’s due to rampant abuse of the housing system, she said.
“I don’t think there’s widespread abuse of the system,” Kieffer said. “Some who didn’t return the affidavits, I know live in their unit — I see them on the bus.”
Kieffer plans to call each of the nine individuals who didn’t respond to the audit to find out why they didn’t return the form. She suspects it’s because of the time of the year when many people are either coming back into town from an off-season vacation or leaving for the holidays.
Still, people need to fill out the compliance forms or else they will receive a notice of violation, which requires them to either sell their unit or go before the housing board for a hearing. A notice of violation also freezes a unit’s appreciation until the matter is resolved.
“It would be wise just to return the paperwork,” Kieffer said.
The rest of the compliance audits will be sent out next year.