Let’s talk people, not units
April 1, 2003
Aspen has its first vacancies in free market rentals in 30 years. Rather than parroting the simplistic “We’ve built too much housing,” I think we should ask, “What is wrong with our resort economy?”
Those in affordable housing make sacrifices to be a part of Aspen, including limited appreciation and cramped living quarters, and for renters, foregoing interest deductions and the chance to build equity.
Instead of ignoring the needs and values of these people by attacking the housing program, we should be thanking them for their continued commitment to our town.
Many are the volunteers for our nonprofits, and vote to tax themselves for valuable programs like open space and mass transit. They know the history of our town and make our resort real, able to tell a guest where the post office, Rio Grande Trail and John Denver Sanctuary are, instead of, “Who knows, I don’t live here, I just work here.”
Housing bashers spout convoluted statistics, forgetting that they are talking about people, not “units.”
Many of the “units” in the “inventory” existed before the housing program and have just been preserved for working folks; Smuggler, Aspen Village, Lazy Glen and Woody Creek Mobile Home parks; the Billings property, Red House Enclave, 1035 E. Durant, Smuggler Mountain Apartments, W/J, and the AABC row houses to name a few. Even Centennial was just a replacement for turning SilverKing into free market condos.
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Other homes were partial mitigation for major growth; such as the St. Regis and the new Highlands Village. Others still were built by community organizations to provide critical services to us, such as the hospital, ambulance, school and sanitation districts.
One has to ask, should we have not converted the Pomegranate Inn, slated for demolition as part of the Maroon Creek Club approvals, into senior housing? Should we have not built music student housing, and instead let them ride the bus up from El Jebel?
Indeed, many second- and third-generation Aspenites still in town are here because they live in either their parents’ homes or in affordable housing. And many downvalley members of our work force secured their homes by working their way up the rungs of the housing program.
Recently even ACES and St. Mary’s built staff housing, and they did so to ensure the long-term success of their organizations.
Working residents provide a critical underpinning to our economy. Instead of going to Movieland at night, they support the Isis, Stage Three and Wheeler; instead of Saturday breakfast at the Smithy in Carbondale, they patronize the Main Street Bakery, Wienerstube and Poppycock’s.
Local residents support local nightclubs and live music, happy hours and restaurants, even in the off-season, as well as shopping daily at Clark’s, City Market, Carl’s, Alpine Hardware and so on.
Let’s focus on the real issue, restoring the vibrancy of our community and resort economy, rather than using the decline of the same as a hollow excuse to halt meaningful new housing ownership opportunities, such as Burlingame Village.
Working locals are waiting; they are people not statistics, and deserve our appreciation and respect.
Rachel E. Richards
City Council candidate