A posh, empty pad in Aspen
A friend of mine was surprised to hear the creaking of footsteps late at night in the apartment above hers – surprised because the apartment was for sale and no one was living in it.It happened again and it turned out a squatter had been sneaking in, sacking out and sneaking away before dawn, which is apparently not unheard of in law enforcement circles.The squatter checks out places for sale, hunts for keys is the usual places – under doormats, in fake rocks, above the doorsill – and a score means free night digs until suspicions are raised.Homes sell fastest when they’re furnished and cozy, so it’s a temptation.Barry Smith created a great show (“Squatter”) about his year squatting in empty London houses, which made me think of all the Aspen Empties and how they could be put to use if we made squatting legal.Aspen is, after all, on the cutting edge of everything, and what could be more cutting edge than solving our traffic and housing problems in one swell foop by enacting a “use it or lose it” law to open the doors of the empties to our commuters.THAT would bring the heart, soul and sense of community back to Aspen! You’d see people rocking on their porches in the dead West End and hear the melody that used to be Aspen by filling the empties with music students.Of course it would have to be organized, to maintain order and keep out the riff-raff (this is ASPEN, after all). Desecration of the properties would be strictly forbidden, and the word “squatters” would be replaced by “house sitters” or “estate protectors.”The money saved by not having to straighten out the S-curves or financing more EIS studies would be ample to finance a new board.The owners of the empties would rest easy, knowing that their homes were being well-tended and treated lovingly, saving a fortune on maintenance and security. Creative marketing and community education could convince everyone that this is a win-win proposition.And it would be historically correct. Before the blue plastic flower logos of Westec Security sprang up on every expensive lawn, anyone who was anyone had a house-sitter. It was Aspen’s affordable housing.A bandit unit in the back, an apartment in the cellar, ideally the run of the house and everyone was safe and happy. Now we make the empties build affordable accessory units, but nowhere is it written that they have to house employees (or anyone else) in them so there’s not much point in that.Open the doors, open the vacant lodge rooms – there’s plenty of space if we could just use it all.Su Lum is a longtime local who is delusional, but does it hurt to dream? This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.