The end of employee housing as we know it | AspenTimes.com
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The end of employee housing as we know it

Roger Marolt

“Look Mrs. Johnston, I understand; believe me. I didn’t think it was right either, at first. I never thought it would go this far. But, now there’s momentum. It’s going to happen with or without your support. Please, just sign the petition. I got a lotta other people to see tonight.””I don’t know … It’s wrong. It’s just plain wrong.””That’s not an issue anymore, Mrs. Johnston. This is going to happen, if not in this election, then in the next. The sooner we get this on the ballot the better. If you sell before it goes through, you’ll leave a lot of loot on the table for the next person.” “I’d feel guilty. It’s like stealing money. It’s just not right!””This isn’t 2005 anymore, Mrs. Johnston. You’re not just now moving into your shiny new deed-restricted house. Things have changed. How long have you been living here? Twenty, maybe thirty years? It slips by, doesn’t it? You’ll be retired in a few years. A little extra cash would come in handy, wouldn’t it?” “No … yes … yes, of course … wait, you’re confusing me. Slow down a little, and tell me again how it is.””Here, have a sip of water, Mrs. Johnston. It’s like this: it all started back in 2025. Mark Hawks … you know him, from the court house? He’s a clerk, hangs out in the back, takes care of voter registration. Well anyway, it turns out that he actually pays attention to what he types into the computer. One day he notices that, for the first time ever, more than 51 percent of Aspen voters are living in employee housing. You see?””I’m not sure that I do.””Or, is it that you don’t want to see, Mrs. Johnston? Mr. Hawks was the first one to point out that people living in employee housing are in control of this town’s politics now. It’s as simple as that. He started thinking: Now that they have the numbers, wouldn’t it be funny if they voted to remove the deed restrictions on their own homes? “Well, Mrs. Johnston, it turns out that it wasn’t so funny. Lots of folks thought it was a good idea. They got organized. Now, they have the power to vote all of the deed restrictions off employee housing … yours included, whether you go along with the plan or not. So I suggest that you get smart, and join the crowd!” “You’ll never get enough people to vote for this. Lots of people in employee housing still have scruples and decency, like me. They’re not all going along with this. You’ll see.””Mrs. Johnston, please, the writing’s on the wall. It’s been there for years. You throw in the NIMBYs, a few environmentalists, some real estate brokers, the open space advocates, and all the folks tired of the housing bureaucracy and we’ve got more than enough votes.” (Chuckles.)”What’s so funny?””Nothin’ Mrs. Johnston. I’m sorry. I was just thinkin’ – it’s kinda ironic that after all these years we finally got a sense of community back. All the locals are behind this. I guess money can buy happiness after all. You gotta admit, that’s sorta funny.” “It’s not funny! I just can’t believe there are that many greedy people willing to go back on their words, to completely dismantle the employee housing program.””This isn’t about greed or words, Mrs. Johnston. It’s about practicality. Look around your own place. I see the roof needs replacing. The windows are mineral-stained. After all these years the plumbing’s bound to be shot. I’m sure your boiler is full of rust. The siding is rotten. For crying out loud, you’ve never even replaced this stinkin’ carpet because the ‘rules’ didn’t allow you to recover the cost. “It all seems to fall apart at once, doesn’t it, Mrs. Johnston? It’s gonna cost hundreds of thousands to fix this dump up. How you gonna pay for it? Can’t get a loan; you got no equity. The Housing Authority gonna help? Not a chance. Before long this place is gonna fall down around you and ‘the rules’ will have converted this affordable house into an expensive vacant lot full of rubble!”No, this isn’t about greed, Mrs. Johnston. This is about recovering your long overdue costs. You’ve earned this. It’s time to take the money to the bank. Just sign here.” “But, it’s not fair to all of the people who played by the rules, all of the people who sold their property for the deed-restricted price … like they agreed when they got it!””They were suckers, Mrs. Johnston. This has been coming for a long time and could have been seen by anyone who was looking. All those people you feel sorry for can join the 100-year-old list of folks in this town who sold out too soon, deed-restricted or otherwise. You don’t want to be one of those suckers, Mrs. Johnston, do you? The time is now. Sign the papers! If you don’t, someone else will.””What’s going to become of this town, though? Where are the working class people going to live when all employee housing is converted to free market? What about businesses? What about our community? Please, tell me everything will be all right.”(Long pause.)”It’s a lot of loot, Mrs. Johnston. Take it, or leave it for the next guy. That’s your choice.””Oh, just give me that pen and let’s be done with it.” (Sobs.)”Thanks, Mrs. Johnston. Everyone will get his say in the election. When the voters approve lifting these deed restrictions next month, I figure you’ll be about a million bucks richer. You won’t regret it. Enjoy your new free-market home. I’ll be seeing you.””Wait, before you go … I don’t even know your name.””My name is Moira, Mrs. Johnston.””That’s an unusual name. I don’t believe I’ve heard it before.” “I don’t doubt it. Just call me Destiny.” Roger Marolt recognizes unintended consequences after they happen. Give your thoughts a temporary home at roger@maroltllp.com


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