Time to tame the APCHA monster
The Red Ant’s recent jeremiad against the Aspen City Council’s new clampdown on STRs (short-term rentals) and residential development seems written for the modern equivalent of the landed gentry of tsarist Russia. But even if your Aspen house isn’t your fourth or fifth and you don’t vote in Palm Beach, she makes a point that’s worth considering (“Aspen’s latest emergency ordinances first shot in class warfare,“ column by Elizabeth Milias, Dec. 19, The Aspen Times)
“Are we really going to build for the unlimited demand of people who simply want to live affordably in Aspen?” This isn’t just a snipe of the gratuitously entitled. It contains a useful insight — the demand for “affordable” housing in Aspen (and the rest of the valley) is unlimited.
Why? Because of induced demand. Widely misunderstood and misapplied, such as when invoked by opponents of fixing the Entrance to Aspen bottleneck, induced demand is the “build it and they will come” concept. No matter how much affordable housing is built in Aspen, or elsewhere in the Roaring Fork Valley, there will never be “enough.” The more we build, the more will come.
The irony is that, while intended to benefit the working poor, Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority housing is a benefit and indirect subsidy to the local employers whose business plans don’t include paying their employees enough to afford free-market housing unless they live 40 miles downvalley. APCHA residents are in effect just a pass-through for local business subsidies.
The real question Aspen faces is: “Are we really going to build for the unlimited demand of anyone who wants to live here, be they rich or poor?” Since local employers have relied for decades on a subsidized workforce and unending building/redevelopment opportunities, that’s going to be a tough discussion. But it’s a vital one, and it should include affordable housing.
Because building more affordable housing isn’t the solution. It’s part of the problem.
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