Housing seniors in the future
October 12, 2017
The Next Generation Advisory Commission would like to applaud the Aspen City Council for its decision to make housing its No. 1 goal for the coming year.
Our commission, representing the policy interests of 18- to 40-year-olds in the Aspen area, consistently recognizes housing as the top issue facing our demographic.
We'd also like to commend the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority for its recent progress. APCHA recently unveiled a much-needed new website, apcha.org. The organization has also made a number of policy improvements, including increasing the asset limit for applicants (a figure that was previously set in 2002) and transitioning from arbitrary categories for income levels to compliance with national standards on the area median income.
There are successes, but there is a lot of work to do. Our commission recently met with the APCHA board to address a critical issue, and that's making sure that APCHA bedrooms are being filled. A 2012 Strategic Review of Housing report estimated 20 percent of workforce housing units will be occupied by retirees by 2025. Many of these residents are living in multi-bedroom units, yet only occupying one bedroom, as their families have grown up and moved out. (We don't know the exact number of units in this category, but APCHA is working on a complete inventory — another initiative which has our support.)
Fortunately for some, once they are no longer working they can remain here. We are proud of these community members and their contributions. But we also need to recognize that if we don't address this issue, we are essentially subsidizing a retirement community. That same study estimates that an additional 250 housing units would need to be built in the next 10 years to accommodate retiring workers. To put that in perspective, Burlingame will be 258 units — total — when the project is complete, with two-thirds of the development already done.
NextGen is interested in exploring solutions, with APCHA and the community, as to how to incentivize people to trade down to smaller units or accept a buyout. The commission sees two viable solutions that may work concurrently: financial incentive and attractive alternatives. Homeowners need enough financial motivation to sell, and retirees need options for housing when looking to downsize.
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NextGen would like to propose a conversation about the city building senior-specific housing so that retirees have options that meet their needs when looking to downsize. If we are effectively going to house seniors, then let's do it the right way.
Aspen deserves a conversation about what our housing stock looks like and what it should look like. The more we know about it now, the better informed decisions we can make for the future. Thank you to City Council for being willing to take this on. We encourage the community to pay attention and participate.
Next Generation Advisory Commission
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