Let Aspen swell like a blueberry
All the Sturm und Drang around housing, traffic, culture, restaurants, rents, renting, housing and Aspen life in general brought back images of Veruca Salt’s pleading, demanding whining voice: “I want a trained squirrel, Daddy, and I want it now.“
Might I suggest to both our fearless leaders and fellow citizens that the answer to our problems lies in accepting the reality — Aspen is (was) an awesome place to live. Demand to live in Aspen is quite high, so what if anything should be done?
The first option, I would suggest, is full-bore capitalism. Get the government out of the way; eliminate all rules and regulations. Stop subsidizing existing landowners and allow building however big a developer wants (downtown high-rise?). Build lot line to lot line.
Animal corridor? Who cares? Develop the hell out of all land. The end result would be classic economics of increased supply of housing and decreased demand to live in a location that is less beautiful, more polluted, and has more traffic.
But let’s be honest: All those housing rules that limit development are a subsidy to existing landowners. When landowners complain about new rules created by our local government that limit rental income or development, you might argue that is our local government trying to claw back some of the subsidies they have given to existing owners in the form of limited housing supply and driving up prices.
Option 2. Full government intervention to drive down demand and increase supply. Figure out a way to increase property taxes by 10 to 20 times. Transfer tax of 25% on real estate. Retail sales tax of 100% on sales of over $500. You get the picture.
Aspen has some glaring challenges, but there are solutions. Drive down demand with a failing school (as teachers retire and we can’t house new ones), massive traffic, restaurants and services that are closed or unavailable most of the year, fees to hike, bike, paddle etc. And increase supply by eliminating limits on development. Otherwise we sound like Veruca Aspen: “I want an awesome affordable town, and I want it now!“