The solution to housing
The Aspen housing solution is so easy that it’s slipped under the radar of government leaders for decades. It’s not about consultants with briefcases, predictable demographic studies or subsidized worker ghettos.Aspen workers must live in mixed neighborhoods throughout town if we ever hope to alleviate traffic jams, road rage, super-sized highways, pollution, congestion, parking hassles, urbanization, social discord, class warfare, entrance votes and a huge commuter carbon footprint.Worker housing must come at an affordable price that doesn’t bankrupt workers or over-develop the community. Worker housing must be convenient and available. Well, guess what? Aspen already has that housing.It’s called second homes, and they sit idle for months at a time, a wasted resource in a community that is now enlightened to resource efficiency. These empty homes are just begging for people to live in them; and we’ve got the people. All we need to do is pair supply with demand, and we’ve answered the housing problem using a tried and true market-based solution.Granted, Aspen’s serial homeowners have already given a lot. Their grandiose habitations have underwritten personal fortunes for architects, designers, excavators, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers, pavers, stone masons, landscapers, and the self-effacing Realtors who labor long and hard moving these properties.Aspen’s serial homeowners have boosted the net worth of Aspen while funding their favorite local cultural amenities. The only downside to the escalation of Aspen real estate is that square-footage is now priced by the square centimeter, driving working people far downvalley.That’s why there is still more that these good people can do … oh, so much more. By graciously opening their homes to the work force that many of them already employ, they could cure Aspen’s growing pains while cultivating social vitality, cultural diversity, and a homey hospitality that will make Aspen shine as a utopian ideal.Honoring that ideal, we simply put people where the beds are. Oh, there might be a few adjustments, like making serial homeowners comfortable rooming with itinerant laborers and undocumented aliens, but these are surmountable.Homeowners simply need to expand their warmth and welcome to the people they already hire as cooks, caterers, drivers, landscapers, masseuses, trainers, maids, window washers, and whatever servile careers are necessary to make life in Aspen pleasurable. Think of the convenience of having the plumber sharing your living room. When the hot tub springs a leak or the bidet gets clogged, bingo! It’s fixed. And what about that bitter cold winter morning when the Range Raper won’t start? If you’ve got a mechanic in the next bedroom, problem solved!The newly radicalized Aspen City Council will promote this concept with breakthrough legislation called the “live-in ordinance.” Property taxes will be slashed for compliant homeowners who will be granted free bicycle parking anywhere in town! It will be the talk of Aspen.”Oh, Alexa, you’ll never guess who moved in with us last week. No, silly, not the Crown Prince of Scotland; a snowplow driver! That means we can turn off the million BTU snowmelt system and single-handedly save the environment. And Alexa, he’s so young and cute, and his girlfriend’s a waitress who’s taught me how to handle dishes. Imagine, the two of us serving dinner together! They’ve been with us two months and already they feel like family!”When serial homeowners open their hearts and their homes to those who need them Aspen will become all warm and cuddly. When working people live where they work and work where they live – right in town – a new sense of community will blossom. People will say hello to each other on the streets; civic engagement will flourish; traffic will abate; pedestrians and cyclists will no longer be vehicular targets; the air will clear; noise pollution will vanish; Highway 82 can become a four-lane bike trail … all the way to Glenwood Springs. Oh, happy day!Paul Andersen’s column appears Mondays.
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