Aspen Times columnist looks down on worker bees
Glenn Beaton, I think that your outlook on affordable housing in Aspen is very skewed, as well as insulting to the majority of those workers who live in Aspen (“Aspen retirees should pass torch of freebies to new generation,” commentary, Oct. 29, The Aspen Times). I have lived in Aspen for nearly 45 years, and have been an affordable-housing mortgage lender since the early ‘80s. I have also been an affordable-housing owner since 1985, and the way you describe affordable housing as “freebies” and the buyers of such units as greedy is completely off base.
Many people who move to Aspen spend years trying to get into affordable housing. Many, including myself, lived in two-bedroom condos with three or four roommates, worked extra jobs along with full-time work to save enough for a down payment on any unit they might qualify for. I continue to lend on affordable-housing units, and were it not for these units, our town would not have the services that we have.
The people I help with mortgages rarely have even close to the $189,000 income you speak of, and all of them have service jobs in this town that Aspen relies on. I have done loans for bank tellers, police officers, ski lift attendants, instructors and ticket sellers, accountants, landscapers, maids and other hotel employees, waiters and waitresses, hairdressers, teachers, doctors, nurses and other hospital employees, landscapers and contractors — and yes, even city and county employees.
Very few of these people — if any — would be able to afford a free-market unit in the midvalley area, much less even a small free-market condo in Aspen. Those who can afford to leave an employee-housing unit to buy a larger free-market place often do, and those people make the decision to move to Basalt, midvalley and Carbondale in order to have a family, but still continue to commute daily to their jobs in Aspen. Highway 82 has become a nightmare to drive during rush hour, so sending us all towards Carbondale will do one of two things: make the highway into what looks like a rush hour L.A. freeway or eliminate most of the jobs in Aspen.
Those who retire from jobs after 40 or 50 years of service in Aspen often continue to run a business from home, as rents for business space in Aspen have become unaffordable. These are also the people who, after leaving full-time work, continue to work as volunteers at the Senior Center, Aspen Valley Hospital, Race for the Cure, Meals on Wheels, Lift Up, Hospice of the Valley, the Thrift Shop and other non-paying and nonprofit jobs that benefit the community that full time employees don’t have time for.
We do need more retirement units that people can downsize to. We need more units available for assisted living, as the only option for those who need it now, besides a few units at Whitcomb at the Senior Center, is Heritage Park in Carbondale. These are the discussions that need to take place, not one that falsely accuses those hard-won affordable units as “freebies” and those who live in them as greedy, dishonest and taking advantage of the system. These are the people in our town who serve us all. Please stop insulting them, and the system that allows us to serve you.