Housing rules must reflect changing times
December 19, 2002
I have lived in Aspen almost nine years and watched sadly as many of my friends were forced either to move downvalley or back to where they came from ? not because they could not find work but because of the housing situation.
Most of them were single, had worked in Aspen many years, paid many dues, only to get them in a management sales positions paying over the $45,000 maximum to allow them to stay in employee housing rental units or to purchase one. Unfortunately, they also weren’t getting paid enough to qualify for free market housing.
This is the one complaint I hear more than any other.
For many it means being literally kicked out of Aspen or:
1. Get pregnant fast.
2. Quit the full-time job and spend half the year in Hawaii.
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3. Steal from your employer so he will fire you (demotion could also work).
4. Get thrown in jail (you would be unable to work, your income level would go down and you can still keep your employee housing!).
5. Move downvalley and become one of thousands of single people driving back and forth to your Aspen job, contributing to the traffic, pollution and the need for the city to spend the $12 billion to widen the highway.
Don’t get me wrong. We are fortunate to have an employee housing authority department. Lord knows we need it, but times are changing.
People are wanting to make Aspen their permanent home. Gone are the days when it was predominantly a seasonal town, where most jobs were filled by part-time college students.
Today there are more single professionals than ever before, many have been here for more than just four years and many of these great people are being forced out.
I encourage the housing authority to adjust the housing requirements to fit the needs of today. As Aspen is, and has been for many years, a community with a large single population, there needs to be more one-bedrooms available.
The maximum income levels in all categories need to be increased. If your income level DOES NOT qualify you for financing for a one-bedroom in Aspen, you should be able to qualify for employee housing until it does.
The price of the units could be raised to reflect the higher income brackets. We should have an actual lottery, where balls in each category are picked at random. I like the idea of the longer you’ve been here the more balls you get (we currently have a lottery but no balls).
The employee housing requirements need to better reflect and reward the well-deserving, hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens in our community that are being forced out on a daily basis.