Local cancer survivor Heidi Mines won her final battle with the housing authority in a meeting on Wednesday after members voted 3-2 to allow her to retain the appreciation value on her deed-restricted unit.
Mines has spent the past year fighting with the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) to keep her three-bedroom home on East Hopkins Avenue. In February last year, APCHA threatened that it would begin eviction proceedings if she didn’t either get a job or sell her home. In order to comply with APCHA guidelines, homeowners are required to work in Pitkin County for 1,500 hours a year and not own other property in the valley. The housing authority freezes appreciation on units that are out of compliance.
In a March 2012 hearing, Mines admitted that she had been unemployed for the majority of time since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2007. She couldn’t keep a job largely due to the fact that she was undergoing cancer treatments, which included numerous surgeries and chemotherapy, she said. As Mines got healthier, the economy was in the grips of a recession and it was difficult for her to find a job, she said. The housing authority was tipped off to her unemployment status by an anonymous person.
The housing board gave Mines four additional months to find a job and the decision on whether to freeze her home’s appreciation was tabled until a follow-up meeting in September. Within that time she became employed and the issue was dropped.
Mines was let go from her job in mid-October, but she quickly found another position driving a bus in Snowmass. She lost her second job in December and at that point she decided to sell her home, she said.
Mines notified the housing authority in January. At the time, APCHA told her that her unit’s appreciation had been frozen since February 2012, placing her home’s value at $283,827. If her appreciation wasn’t frozen, the value of her home in January would have been $288,853. APCHA caps appreciation on its units at 3 percent annually, or according to the Consumer Price Index.
“I just honestly feel like the freezing of appreciation is something you do to penalize people who are deliberately taking advantage of affordable housing,” Mines said to the housing board at Wednesday’s meeting.
Mines became out of compliance due to her health and the state of the economy, she said. It was never her intention to take advantage of the affordable housing system, she said.
As it is, Mines is going to become homeless once she sells her unit and she’ll need any money she can get from the sale, she said.
“Affordable housing was created to help people and also to prevent homelessness in the United States,” Mines said. “... My kids and I are about to become homeless and that’s why it’s so important. The less money I have, the harder it’s going to be for me to rectify the situation.”
Board members Rick Head and Ron Erickson voted against granting Mines the appreciation because technically she’s been out of compliance with APCHA rules since 2007.
Board members Marcia Goshorn, Steve Stunda and Renee West voted in favor of allowing her appreciation to be retained through most of 2012 and freeze it at $288,485, which was the value of the home in December when she lost her last job. Goshorn said she voted in Mines’ favor because she doesn’t think the housing authority should punish people for things outside of their control.
“I don’t want to see somebody punished because our guidelines don’t take into account if somebody gets an illness,” Goshorn said.
Mines said she was satisfied with the outcome.
“At least they gave me something,” she said.