Affordable Housing Rent Can Go Up Every Year

May 19, 2014

Credit Courtesy Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority

Renting employee housing in the Aspen area has a major perk. It’s more affordable than “free market” housing-- making it possible for more local workers to live in town. But one of the catches is that rent can go up regularly.

Cindy Christensen is Operations Manager with the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority. She says regulations allow rent to increase each year.

“The majority of our rental units go up either 3%, or the consumer price index, whichever is less, every year.”

The consumer price index, or CPI, is the rate of inflation for consumers, in this case for the Denver- Boulder market. For 2014, the CPI went up by 1.1%, so that’s how much rents will go up for most affordable housing units in the Aspen area. So, if a person pays $1000 a month, their rent will go by $11 each payment. Again, Cindy Christensen.

“We figure that landlords experience additional costs, additional expenses, but we still want to maintain some type of affordability.”

Christensen says the housing authority has always used the Denver-Boulder measure as a standard for upping monthly rental fees each year. But some housing developments can go for bigger increases.

“We do have a couple of properties out there, Castle Ridge and Centennial, where they do increase differently. Castle Ridge is under a management agreement, and they provide us with a letter to how they calculate their increases every year.”

Rent goes up July 1st for Castle Ridge, and a spokeswoman for the complex says a contract with the Aspen housing authority allows rent to increase by at least 2.5% each year. It can be higher than that, to cover operating expenses. So this year, rents are going up just under 2.6%. In full disclosure, I’m one of the renters at the Castle Ridge Apartments.

As for Centennial apartments, they have a different way of figuring how much to raise the rent. Again, Cindy Christensen, of the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority.

“Because of an agreement that we lost in a lawsuit, they have to provide us with a letter every year as well, as to how they calculated their increase.”

Centennial managers use a different inflation indicator to set rent prices. Centennial administrators say they don’t know yet how much rental rates will increase this year.

Cindy Christensen says the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority gets a lot of complaints about annual rent increases. And she encourages residents to be in touch if they’re concerned.

“It’s still good for them to call in, in verify that we have the right rental right. ‘Cause we don’t want them to be overcharged. Because if we find that they’ve been overcharged, their landlord-- we will take them to court and they will have to pay them back.”

And that’s happened before.

“That hasn’t been well known or it hasn’t been out there in the news, because usually the landlord will take care of it without that publicity. Once we start getting our attorney involved, they usually will agree that they did over charge and they take care of it.”

There are more than a thousand affordable housing rentals in Aspen and Pitkin County.