Housing board kicks woman out of house in Aspen
The Aspen Times
The Aspen housing authority has decided to boot a woman from her subsidized unit because she hasn’t lived there for at least two years.
The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board on Wednesday determined that Julie Peters, who owns a one-bedroom apartment on East Hyman Avenue, violated three guidelines governing the program: failing to live in the unit full time, failing to work at least 1,500 hours a year in Pitkin County, and failing to request a leave of absence.
The board also voted to force another longtime resident of affordable housing to remove her husband’s name from the deed on her unit at Independence Place because she failed to prove their marriage in the time required, or that he qualifies to own it with her.
JoAnn Hall received a notice of violation in May that she transferred ownership to a person without APCHA approval and failed to provide necessary documentation to cure it.
She requested a board hearing to prove that Clyde V. Foster is her husband. However, the couple went before the board Wednesday and agreed to take Foster off the deed.
Peters received a notice of violation in June, and she appealed the agency’s determination to the board.
She admitted in a June 18 letter to APCHA that she has been spending time in Virginia because her parents fell ill, and then her father died and she has been caring for his dozen or so animals — including dogs, cats and a monkey.
She’s also been tied up in an “acrimonious legal battle over my father’s estate that took a lot of time and left me in a tenuous financial situation” that kept her on the East Coast longer than she anticipated.
She appeared before the board with her attorney, Alan Feldman. He told the board his client has gone through hell and back and is ready to resume her life in Aspen.
“If she didn’t file paperwork, it’s just because she didn’t know” that she needed to, he said. “The idea that she is some sort of scofflaw is not true and not well-received.”
Peters, 64, requested leniency from the board, asking for six to nine months to get back into compliance and get a job here.
“I realize I have not entirely complied with the letter of the law, but I have kept within the spirit of the law,” she wrote in her letter.
APCHA was able to track Peters’ bank transactions, which indicate that she spent 11 days in Aspen in 2016, between 15 to 110 in 2017 and 39 days through May of 2018. The majority of transactions during those years occurred in Virginia, according to APCHA.
And according to public documents, Peters set up utility service in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2014.
Federal tax returns provided by Peters to APCHA, after it issued a notice that she was being investigated, shows she earned $350 in 2016 and $3,500 in 2017.
Beyond that, APCHA has received numerous complaints from neighbors and the building’s property management company in the past year that Peters isn’t residing in the unit.
A voicemail left June 21 with Julie Kieffer, APCHA’s qualifications specialist, states, “I live at 1015 E. Hyman. I just wanted to let you know that Julie Peters has not lived in that unit literally for years. … The intent of that is for a nurse or a teacher or someone like she was to be living in the space. … It’s a crime someone’s not living in this unit. She was a teacher when she was able to buy it. Now a teacher is not able to afford anything in Aspen. It would be pleasant to have someone occupy that unit.”
A property manager for the building informed APCHA in September that there were rodents in the unit and it’s not kept up.
A leave of absence is the only mechanism for an exception to the residency and employment requirements, and allows a maximum leave of as long as two years.
Peters failed to request that option, according to APCHA.
The board agreed with APCHA’s staff recommendation that she must sell her home. The maximum value of the unit, which she purchased in 1991 for $59,900, is $153,943.
Hall purchased her unit at Independence Place in 1994 for $88,500. The maximum value now is $159,063.
The APCHA board also signed off on first reading a new fine schedule, which will be recommended for approval by Aspen City Council and the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.
If the fines were in place at the time of Peters’ violation, she would be facing at least $5,500 in penalty fees. Hall would be facing at least $5,250 in fines.
The board also approved on first reading changing the housing guidelines so that APCHA contracts with a third-party hearing officer. That way, the board no longer has to deal with enforcement issues, appeals, grievance cases or special reviews.
“This creates operational inefficiencies and increases the risk of establishing inconsistent precedents when making quasi-judicial decisions affecting the program and program participants,” reads a memo by APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky to the board. “Such ambiguity can be detrimental to the program and erode public trust.”
As with the proposed fine structure, City Council and county commissioners have to approve the hearing officer as part of changes to APCHA’s guidelines.
Kosdrosky also wrote that “APCHA’s compliance and enforcement tools are inadequate, short of forcing the sale of a deed-restricted home or the termination of a deed-restricted rental lease, to effectively promote program responsibility, integrity and public trust.”
The schedule of fines, which range from $250 to $5,000 based on the severity of the infraction, is meant to address all types of compliance violations within the program and achieve 100 percent compliance.
“Fines are meant to deter owners, renters and landlords from breaking the affordable housing rules,” the memo reads. “Through public education and outreach, APCHA hopes to clearly communicate expectations for program compliance.”
A second reading on the guideline changes will go before the APCHA board Sept. 5 for final approval before going to the elected boards.