Aspen’s housing dilemma

Low-income housing is an issue that has bedeviled communities for centuries. Put simplistically, there are two choices. Cities can build low-income housing focused on inclusivity, which has the effect of building communities. Alternatively, cities can build low-income housing designed to provide a roof over the head of mercenaries who are allowed to live in a community as long as they are willing to work there. It is a choice.

Aspen has chosen the first option. Housing was built for people who chose to live there, build a community, raise their children there and even retire there. The individuals who have been lucky enough to win the lottery and obtain housing have contributed to building a vibrant, year-round community. They have made Aspen great.

The alternative, offered by Elizabeth Milias, is to offer housing on a short-term basis to individuals while they work in Aspen (“The housing fix is in,” commentary, Jan. 2, 2022, The Aspen Times). This is a perfectly valid alternative but will create a very different type of community, one which is probably populated more by individuals out for short-term gain and the money they can make with no interest in the community at all.

Aspen will quickly lose its quirky character and become just like Beverly Hills or Palm Beach — home of the rich and separated by a bridge from the low-income residents by a bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway. Meantime, other Colorado mountain towns will capture visitors seeking the charm of the Rockies, towns such as Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte and even Vail.

No doubt this is the outcome sought by Milias and her friends seek. However, in a world of a shrinking workforce, Milias should think again because there are fewer and fewer individuals willing to essentially become serfs to the rich. Everyone should take note of the “Great Resignation.” Milias essentially proposes to create a slum. The slum will attract a certain class of people. Those seeking to build Vail, Steamboat and Crested Butte can only cheer Milias on.

Philip Verleger