As the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority begins to build a $1.4 million new database system to track its 3,000-unit inventory, the agency will be just as focused on the public understanding, trusting and participating in the process.
It’s a census of sorts for the aging and growing inventory, and will require each person living in a deed-restricted unit to provide necessary information.
Currently, APCHA does not have a full account of all of its deed-restricted properties in the city and county because of its paper-based system.
HomeTrek is an automated information management system with an external portal, providing real-time data and online access for the public, whether it’s looking at a unit’s specific deed restriction or valuation, as well as other details.
“Ultimately what matters is the customer experience improves all around,” said APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky at Wednesday’s board meeting. “It’s a really exciting time.”
Going from paper-based to automated will be one of the biggest changes to the agency in decades.
Funded by real estate and sales taxes and developer fees, APCHA is one of the first workforce housing agencies in the country and the first in Colorado when it was established in the late 1970s.
A communications consultant is part of the HomeTrek team, along with IT consultant, Hexaware, which is building the system.
Team members from Hexaware, whose headquarters are in India, are onsite this month to begin the kickoff.
So is Kim Newcomer, founder and CEO of Slate Communications.
They attended the APCHA board meeting Wednesday to introduce themselves and explain next moves.
Newcomer had presented a communication strategy around HomeTrek last April, when the board had a different makeup.
Now there are new members who are elected officials representing the city and county.
Newcomer explained that the communications strategy includes connecting with participants, citizens and elected officials to explain why HomeTrek is so crucial to the program’s future, as well as how critical APCHA is for the health of the community.
“How do we get people excited about it and then how can we get them to use the program?” Newcomer said, adding public outreach will continue throughout the year. “It takes a long time to have things stick in communications.”
It’s also about increasing accountability and transparency for an agency that has trust issues with some members of the community.
APCHA board member and Aspen City Council member Rachel Richards said she wants to make sure HomeTrek is a system that can be trusted and won’t be hacked, given the sensitive information that will live in it.
“This system is going to hold an awful lot of personal data,” she said.
The communications strategy acknowledges that APCHA has been the center of political discourse recently, and news coverage of the agency’s compliance and enforcement efforts has put the public on notice.
But the message must stay on point that HomeTrek is to improve the system for everyone, according to Newcomer.
“APCHA cannot efficiently or effectively manage the housing program without real-time information and statistics, and it’s next to impossible to demonstrate the housing program’s value to the community without key performance indicators and data,” reads a portion of Slate’s communications strategy.
Data and analytics also will help in reducing fraud and abuse, which a majority of APCHA residents say they want to be a high priority, according to surveys done by APCHA and the city.
APCHA has stepped up its enforcement of the rules and is focusing on compliance throughout the inventory, which includes more than 1,650 ownership units, at least 86 HOAs and over 1,350 rentals.
One of the key findings from Slate and referenced in the communications strategy that will be a signature message in public outreach in the coming months focuses on what APCHA does for the community.
“APCHA’s mission is to strengthen community through affordable workforce housing,” the document reads. “It’s not viewed as a social service. Housing is critical to supporting the local economy and creating an environment where real people can work, live and play.
“Without APCHA, Aspen becomes a mountain resort community like all the rest — a great place to visit, but one you could never live in.”