APCHA compliance manager pressed for time on enforcement

by Dorothy Atkins, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

The Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) is having difficulty enforcing compliance cases due to the lack of staff dedicated to the cause.
Currently there is only one staff member responsible for responding to and enforcing compliance in the local affordable housing system. That person is the APCHA qualifications specialist Julie Kieffer. In addition to her enforcement duties, Kieffer is also responsible for processing over 900 affordable housing applications annually.
Balancing the jobs can be difficult and some tasks get neglected due to others that are more urgent, Kieffer said.
“I wish I had some more time,” Kieffer said. “But it’s a matter of prioritizing what needs to get done.”
For example, Kieffer is on her fourth month of performing an audit of 10 homeowners who didn’t return an affidavit saying they were in compliance. The small sample is intended to be a test case for a larger audit of about 100 homeowners, which the housing board directed staff to do this year.
Kieffer originally mailed the first notices to homeowners on Nov. 9. A month later only one person responded. The city of Aspen then launched a media campaign notifying those audited that they were required to sign an affidavit saying they were in compliance or else they could be forced to sell their units. Since, Kieffer has called each home and only six of the 10 people have signed the affidavit.
Kieffer said she thinks most people who aren’t responding are in compliance. She even knows where one person works in town who hasn’t responded, but she hasn’t had time to chase them down, Kieffer said.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
Apartments over Clark’s Market, where two affordable housing tenants allegedly looked to make some extra cash by offering their units as vacation rentals.

Meanwhile, in the past month there have been two cases of people who have been advertising their APCHA unit as a short-term vacation rental online. Both rental apartments in question are above Clark’s Market and are owned by Tony Mazza and Frank Woods.
The apartments are rental units and those who live in them have to requalify with APCHA every two years. When Kieffer heard that the two renters were offering their units to out-of-towners, they were overdue to requalify and Kieffer had been trying to get them in compliance for a while, she said.
Kieffer contacted one of the tenants and he admitted to renting out his unit short term and advertising it on Craigslist. He apologized and proved that he was still in compliance, Kieffer said. The other tenant has not responded yet, so she’s asked the owners of the building to get involved.
“We do allow people a chance to come back into compliance,” Kieffer said. “And so I’m going to try to work with the owners to see if he’s really living here, and if not, have someone else take his place.”
If that doesn’t work, because it’s a rental, she’ll be forced to take legal action against the building owners. Still, it’s ultimately about how much time she has to dedicate to the issue, she said.
Despite the fact that the number of complaints dropped last year compared to 2011, Kieffer said she doesn’t expect things to slow down.
In 2012, there were 46 complaints filed with 12 resulting in rental units opening and one ownership unit going on the market. The year before, 58 complaints were filed, which resulted in six rental units opening up and seven ownership units going on the market.