Housing summit gathers regional leaders to Aspen to address region’s affordable housing | AspenTimes.com

Housing summit gathers regional leaders to Aspen to address region’s affordable housing

Aspen Skiing Co.'s 43-unit affordable housing project in Willits. The housing summit aims to bring leaders together throughout the Mountain West.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Community leaders, lawmakers, and public officials from across the Mountain West are gathering on Wednesday in Aspen to discuss perhaps the area’s most pressing issue: the housing crisis.

In what some call one of the first organized efforts to address the problem as a region, the Solving the Housing Crisis: A Regional Summit on Equitable Solutions will bring together representatives from multiple professions and backgrounds for a daylong summit on Tuesday.

The summit will take place at the Aspen Meadows, Doerr Hosier Center.

Basalt Mayor Bill Kane will moderate two panels during the summit. His decades of experience in public office informed a wide view of the evolution of the “housing” issue to the “affordable housing” issue. 

“It was really a different era, but we didn’t have nearly the complexity of the economy that we have now,” he said. “We try to make the most efficient use of the funding we’re getting from grants and tax revenue and the inclusionary deals through development applications. So it’s a regional problem that’s going to take a regional fix.”

He will lead panel discussions on framing the housing crisis and how regional institutions address their own housing needs. Hearing how those institutions recruit and retain workers is what he is most excited to hear about, he said. 

David Myler is the treasurer of the West Mountain Regional Housing Coalition and will speak at the summit. He said seeing decision-makers from across the region come together to discuss housing is a relatively new approach, and that bringing communities together to address the issue makes sense to the region. 

“The regional approach is kind of a new approach,” he said. “RFTA is a good example of how an issue as important as housing can be better solved on a regional basis. … And it’s always been my feeling that the entire region is one community with a very mobile workforce.”

Coming together as a region, he said, guards against communities making decisions at the detriment to their neighbors. 

A particular issue that this region faces in addressing the need for affordable housing is balancing that need with land use and population density concerns. Even with its global appeal, Aspen is situated in rural Colorado. Many locals worry about maintaining rural character in the face of development. 

“We need to provide better means of housing our workforce, but we also have to honor each community’s commitment to their land use policies and concerns. So that creates, perhaps … a challenge, and I think we’re up to it,” Myler said. “Nobody wants to lose character and quality of life. We don’t want to do things that create excessive traffic …. So it’s just a balancing act. It’s a process of gathering information, paying attention, respecting different points of view, and trying to find sensible solutions that are in balance. There is no magic bullet to this. Other than maybe funding.”

Potential avenues for funding is what he is most excited to hear about at the summit today. Across the five sessions, panelists will discuss topics like business and community workforce needs, housing challenges in the Latino community, financial resources and solutions, and how all actors interact with government, non-profits, and real estate. 

Statewide and local decision-makers will take part in various panels throughout the day. 

“I do think that at the local level and at the state level, there’s a recognition of the need, and in particular, the need for funding sources in order to implement the solutions. Because none of these things come cheaply,” Myler said. “I would say (there is) encouragement that there are solutions, and that there are organizations that are working on those solutions.”

Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley will stream the summit on their website and on Youtube for free viewing.


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