Retirees who own affordable housing are now able to leave the valley and rent their homes for up to six months out of the year.
Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners in a joint work session on Tuesday agreed to change housing guidelines that restrict retirees from living outside of the county for extended periods of time.
Housing guidelines currently require all homeowners, including retirees, to live in their unit for at least nine months a year and they are not allowed to sublet them. Homeowners can retire in their units as long as they are 65 or older, have worked 1,500 hours annually for four years in Pitkin County, maintain occupancy in the unit for at least nine months a year and not own other property in the valley.
In Tuesday’s meeting, board members of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) argued in favor of making the policy change because it could create a new inventory of units for seasonal workers as a result. Also, some retirees have told board members that they would like to spend part of the year in warmer climates or with their families, but can’t afford to travel unless their unit is rented.
Under the new policy, retirees who want to vacation for half of the year have to complete an APCHA leave of absence form, notify their homeowner’s association of the situation and make sure their HOA’s guidelines allow units to be rented for the short term.
The rental fee will be determined by how much the homeowner pays each month to cover the cost of the unit, which incorporates its income category and bedroom count, and it is intended to cover mortgage and insurance payments, property taxes, utility costs and HOA dues. Homeowners can charge $50 more than the determined rental fee, but they are not allowed to make additional money off of the rental by adding on costs like furniture charges.
“We’re not trying to get anybody to make money on these things,” said housing board member Ron Erickson. “But it does allow them to get away for up to six months.”
Council member Steve Skadron asked if the housing board had an idea of how many retirees would use the rental option and if there were any unintended consequences associated with the policy change.
There is no way to tell how many retirees will rent their units, but it is worth trying out the new policy for the sake of gaining more short-term rental units in the program’s inventory, Erickson said.
The only foreseeable unintended consequence is that HOA bylaws would have to be changed in order to allow short-term rentals if current rules prohibit it, said board member Marcia Goshorn.
City Council members and county commissioners agreed the policy change would be positive for the housing program.
Mayor Mick Ireland said the change is important for the program over the long term because it offers a potential solution to the lack of seasonal housing.
“This would help fill that niche,” he said.