Facts and fixes to Aspen housing
• Aspen has one of the highest costs of living in the USA, yet most local business pay only average or below wages. Aspen Skiing Co., whose owners own 10% of one of the world’s largest defense contractors, just raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour — about the same as the average minimum wage in many much poorer communities. Shameful!
• Aspen commercial tenants pay some of the highest rents per square foot in the USA. To save money on wages and be more profitable, many of those tenants underpay their employees so they can then qualify for lower category affordable housing. Many local businesses — often global corporations — are gaming Aspen’s affordable-housing system at the taxpayers’ expense.
• Taxpayers are the losers and wealthy landlords are usually the winners because there are no limits on how much rent they can charge. This is wrong.
• Establish an appropriate minimum livable wage for the Aspen workforce so that they too can rent decent housing and some of the nicer things in life. It should be no less than $20 an our.
• Require all registered Aspen businesses to make public current employee wage scales. This will help understand who may be gaming the system and help City Council and Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority better understand the salaries of the Aspen workforce so they can make more informed decisions about pricing affordable-housing rentals and sales, and decisions regarding supply and demand.
• Consider rent control for commercial real estate to spread the responsibility for affordable housing beyond citizen taxpayers and citizen landlords. New York City is looking hard at this type of rent control.
• And if you are really serious about providing more affordable housing, consider a vacancy tax on certain properties.
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