If you keep building, they’ll keep coming | AspenTimes.com

If you keep building, they’ll keep coming

“Affordable housing” is a phrase I hear or see all the time. It comes up in newspaper articles, public meetings, and any discussion with anyone about current affairs. Often attached is a phrase like “desperately needed.”  Usually there is some great problem this solves — like commuter and general traffic, or provide needed employees to businesses, or house necessary workers like cops, bus drivers, nurses, or teachers. Aspen-Pitkin has one of the country’s leading programs for their size with around 3,000 units. 

But hold on — 3,000 units and there are still not enough? Build and build and still not enough? Why not?

Two big reasons. First, affordable housing is itself a growth generator. And second, the constant increase in the business sector is the primary cause of growth. In the first case, putting people in new housing is not like putting skis in a closet that you take out only when you need them. These human beings need the complete infrastructure that residents do. Every facet of that support has to expand. And — more new people are needed to fill those slots. 

In the second case, there are new stores, lawyers, doctors, businesses like banks, restaurants, Uber drivers, city clerks, lift attendants, etc. These are new jobs that need new people to fill them. New people need new housing.  Vicious circle.

There is a simple solution. Stop the growth. No more business permits or licenses. No expansions. Put a limit on the number of businesses and on the number of employees. No more employee housing. There is “enough” of both of those things. There is no “constitutional right” to open any business in any place. Let the existing businesses compete for the existing employees. Let the market sort itself out. 

Patrick Hunter


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