Pay for six, work for four
January 4, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN By the time Florencia Catala arrived in Aspen from Buenos Aires, Argentina, she’d already been paying rent at Marolt Ranch for two months, adding up to roughly $1,000 for a room she didn’t occupy.”This was really hard. I rented in October and moved in December,” she said. “I am paying for six months and working for four.”Mariana Pisani, also from Buenos Aires, is in the same boat. She began paying for her unit at Burlingame in mid-September, but she didn’t move in until Dec. 15.”It’s a lot, because instead of paying $2,000, I had to pay $3,000” to move in, she said. “If not, they are full, and I want to book the place.”
This is Pisani’s third season in Aspen as a ski instructor, and in the past, she hasn’t had to begin paying for her housing until November. She said she’d love to see the housing office provide more housing for seasonal workers because there’s just not enough, and paying the extra money to reserve in advance is a hardship. It would be nice if the Aspen Skiing Co. offered more housing, too – it’s harder to get housing through the Skico than through the housing office, she said.Pisani said she couldn’t have found housing without the housing office, unless she knew someone in the area. She does have friends here, but many of them band together and rent houses downvalley. Pisani prefers to live closer to the ski areas.Catala and Pisani among the many seasonal workers who secured housing for the winter through the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority.Julie Kieffer, a qualifications specialist at the housing office, said her office has always had a policy that seasonal renters pay in advance to reserve rooms. The office begins collecting rent to hold rooms as soon as all the rooms have been spoken for.In the past, she said, rooms didn’t fill up until December. Last year, the office began taking rent around the first week of November, but this year, workers from abroad began making reservations much sooner, and all of the rooms were booked by October. The housing office needed payments by Oct. 1 to hold a room for the season, even if employees didn’t arrive until several months later.
A housing crisis last ski season may have helped prompt workers to make housing arrangements sooner.At the beginning of the 2005-06 ski season, new workers who hadn’t lined up their housing in advance inundated the housing office.”We housed what we could, but we scrambled like crazy and appealed to the public to open up rooms,” said Housing Director Tom McCabe.In response, the housing office tried to get the message out to local employers, as well as international job brokers and sponsors, to make sure seasonal workers secure housing in advance.
“I think that people were just more aware and told their employees, ‘If you want a place, act early,'” Kieffer said.This is Catala’s first season in Aspen, but for some workers who have been here before, there is a perception that the housing office has new rules. Pisani said she knew the rules hadn’t changed – the units simply filled up faster. But she’s willing to pay the extra cost for the chance to work in Aspen.”It’s a big deal,” she said. “But I prefer coming here to work where I like.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is email@example.com