‘Ghettoizing the workers’? | AspenTimes.com

‘Ghettoizing the workers’?

Dear Editor:Joe Edwards said he’s against big housing developments like Burlingame because they “deepen class divides” in Aspen. He calls Burlingame “stuffing all the people out in some ghetto that (wealthier) people can sneer at from their homes in the heights of Red Mountain.” (Aspen Daily News, Feb. 26.)While I don’t believe his comment reflects the opinions of my neighbors on Red Mountain, Mr. Edwards does speak volumes about his own attitudes. One wonders, when driving back home to Carbondale, does he “sneer” at those hard-working community members whose homes are “stuffed” out in a field at W/J, Lazy Glen, Aspen Village or the Woody Creek Mobile Home Park? Bemoaning “class divides in Aspen,” he further inflames the issue with pronouncements that the city is “ghettoizing the workers” by actually following the direction given in 2000, when 60 percent of the voters advised the city to enter into the pre-annexation contracts to create Burlingame. Is it “ghettoizing” working families and individuals to offer them a chance for home ownership, close to their work, designed to exceed national green building standards? Is it “ghettoizing” to build some equity and deduct mortgage interest from one’s taxes, instead of the insecurity and zero return from renting?Maybe Joe hasn’t experienced the destabilizing effect of moving every year, knowing that eventually you’ll be forced away from the town you once called home. Perhaps he doesn’t know what it’s like to raise kids in a one-bedroom because there aren’t opportunities to move into something larger.Maybe he doesn’t realize that home ownership, deed-restricted or otherwise, creates permanence, wealth and security for individuals and communities. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that while you can import a work force, you can’t import a community, the sense of belonging, commitment, entrepreneurism, volunteerism and involvement that comes from knowing “this is my hometown.” Mr. Edwards harkens back to 30 years ago, when housing was a minor concern and most people who worked in Aspen lived in Aspen, running the mountains, teaching the children, plowing the streets, delivering the mail, tending the shops, helping the guest, patronizing local businesses year-round – all living, working, laughing, struggling, playing, dreaming and building a community together. But in 2005, free-market rental and ownership housing combined hold an ever-dwindling 25 percent of Aspen’s work force. The ability to bootstrap oneself from an affordable unit to the free market competes with unrelenting second-home demand. A 400-foot, free-market Hunter Creek studio costs more than $250,000; even resident-occupied places in Smuggler fetch $600,000. Who will be our neighbors in 20 more years? The continued loss of local working residents, the people who are the very character and vitality of Aspen, threatens our long-term sustainability on all fronts.Mr. Edwards seems intent on dismissing the tremendous contribution that affordable housing has made to Aspen by calling working class neighborhoods ghettos. This is unfortunate. As a friend recently said, “Even if it’s humble, my home is my castle.” With hope for the future and faith in my neighbors, Rachel RichardsAspen

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