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Aspen Economics 101

Dear Editor:Desperately seeking … what is no longer here.Calling all trust-fund babies … Please come to Aspen and rent my 450-square-footstudio for $2,000 per month, plus utilities. (Chirp, chirp, silence.)What? Your fathers have sent you to work for their friends in some big dirty city and you cannot come to Aspen and play for the summer?Arriving from Manhattan this January, I was shocked to hear numerous accounts of Aspenites expressing shock that their mountain paradise was, in fact, not recession-proof. To quote my favorite “Saturday Night Live” segment, “Really? Really.”I’m not an economist, but I did convince the Wharton School of Business to grant me a degree in economics, and I don’t recall my econ professor putting an asterisk next to Aspen, Disney World or the Garden of Eden while explaining the fundamentals of supply and demand.After my recent quest for housing, I am beginning to question the financial savvy and basic civility of Aspen’s property-wielding citizens. Having limited funds and job prospects, but a will to make it work here, I’ve endeavored to find amenable housing inwhat is clearly a renter’s market. While some landlords have been willing to compromise,many have displayed an air of entitlement, stubbornness and downright hostility.In one conversation I politely asked about negotiating a lower rent, saying the current price exceeded my budget. Her nasty response: “Well, then, you can’t afford a one bedroom in this area!” Abrupt click … dial-tone. Another hung up on me after I apologized for not calling back earlier to decline his offer. Awaiting my response had delayed his Sunday bike ride. One woman offered to “help me out” by sweetly offering a tiny bedroom off the kitchen of her B&B for only $400 per week.The rationale for this blatant disregard for market principles at least carries a consistenttheme. “But this is Aspen,” “it’s expensive here – my place would normally rent for $500 more.” To which I think (but do not say, out of respect), And you have lowered the normal rent out of the goodness of your heart? This next comment usually follows: “You are from Manhattan, isn’t it expensive there?” To which I say (sometimes out loud), “Why yes …but there are also jobs there.” Here, you have trees and mountains … narya six-figure salary as far as the eye can see. … And as for starting your own business (to elevate yourself above the $12/hour jobs) … we saw the fate of the Steak Pit and the hardworking owners who moved their beloved food, service and tax payments right out of here to more realistic realms downvalley.So who is coming to rent all these lovely, luxurious properties? Much of the trust-fund crowd is actually working this summer. Young people coming to work for Aspen Skiing Co. and the like are shacking up in Club Commons. And the truly rich don’t want to rent your studio – no matter how much stainless steel is in the kitchen or what mountain you see out the window. Fortunately, I’ve found a landlord with a solid grounding in reality. I now have a place to live in a beautiful town; and I am grateful.But speaking for those who are still searching for a home, I ask with all the respect thatis due: Owners of Aspen, if you were foolish enough to purchase property at the height of the most obviously unsustainable real estate bubble in decades, please don’t take it out on those who have come to live in your presence, serve your food, clean your house and teach your children how to ski.Christy YoestSnowmass Village


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