Ideas on Aspen’s housing dilemma |

Ideas on Aspen’s housing dilemma

Glenn Beaton in his recent piece on Aspen’s subsidized housing program says it’s “not sustainable” and wants a public discussion on the issue (“Let’s reinvent taxpayer-subsidized housing,” commentary, Jan. 27, The Aspen Times).

So here are three thoughts.

First, don’t throw all the “retired people” out of Aspen’s subsidized housing. You’ve lost too many already. In the midvalley one hears all the time, “I’ve lived in this valley 20, 30, 40 years. I used to live in Aspen.”

You want a vibrant community? Then do more than just make hive-space for Aspen’s millennial work force. Aspen needs not just those old-timers, mid-timers or new-timers who were born with the silver spoon, but also those whose blood, sweat and tears earned them a place in this valley.

Second, drop the short-term rentals. Everybody wants to be able to cash in on the Airbnb craze, but nobody wants to live next to a neighbor who’s doing it. If you’re going to hand out subsidized living space and not income-producing assets, make sure the recipients live in the space.

Third, don’t replace the lottery with a citizens’ committee. Instead replace it with an auction. That should appeal to those who believe that housing policy is best left to the invisible hand. Let those who meet the current qualifications, which can be updated or modified as they have been in the past, bid on properties that come up on the subsidized market for sale or rent. Let those who in the classic economic sense need them the most, as measured by their willingness and ability to pay, have them. Their bids will be tempered by the knowledge that they can’t jigger the books with short-term rentals, and, having more skin in the game, they’ll presumably take better care of the properties so the wasting asset problem is avoided.

Highest and best use — right, Glenn?

Barry Vaughan

El Jebel

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