Marolt: The crime wave that makes Aspen great | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: The crime wave that makes Aspen great

Roger Marolt
Roger This

It’s not so much fake news as it is real bull crap. Writing about Aspen’s affordable-housing program and blaming it for the high cost of living, a local columnist recently proclaimed, “Four decades of taxpayer-subsidized housing in Aspen has produced the most expensive real estate in the country.” I believe the implication being that, if we didn’t have the affordable-housing program here, we could all afford to live here. Hmmm …

While it is true that living in Aspen, Colorado, is expensive, I’m not certain it contains the most expensive real estate in the country, but pursuing that argument would be splitting well-coiffed hair. What is complete nonsense, however, is the assertion that Aspen’s affordable-housing program has caused Aspen real estate to be pricey.

This is not a chicken-and egg-discussion that has no definitive answer. Which came first? Duh. Expensive real estate came first. Real estate prices began rising so furiously fast about 1970 that it became all but impossible to house the local workforce that kept the place running.

Local business owners led the charge to create the program allowing workers to live in and near town. Our tourists, who rely on the service providers, have rewarded the town generously for being smart and creative enough to keep the place operating in a manner that makes it a wonderful and worthwhile place to visit. And ditto for the second-home owners.

So, no, employee housing did not cause Aspen real estate to become expensive. Very clearly, expensive real estate hatched subsidized housing.

If the columnist had stopped there, the world would know that he was simply wrong about this. Unfortunately, he was not wise enough to do so and now we know he also is a Republican.

His rant quickly became a tirade, and he seemed to narrowly avoid calling the residents in employee housing “rapists” and “murderers,” even though he is probably sure some of them are good people. Thankfully he stopped short of that by simply implying they are mere felons worthy of an FBI probe.

In reference to fabricated allegations of what sounds like near universal abuse of the subsidized-housing program rules, he wrote, “Aspen establishment not only tolerates this fraud, but embraces it. While masquerading as ordinary Socialist wealth distribution, it is actually a political pay-off to a constituency of criminals.”

According to the piece, few people actually live in their subsidized housing but fix it up and rent it out instead, realizing huge windfalls. To compound the crimes, nobody is reporting this income on their tax returns. How he knows what all Aspenites report on their tax returns is anyone’s guess. His solution calls for the federal government to launch a massive sting operation to halt the widespread corruption and racketeering.

They had better bring a wide net. There might be some owners of free-market houses who aren’t reporting rental income on their tax returns or remitting the local lodging tax, too.

I would like to go all Clarence the Angel and show you what Aspen would look like without subsidized housing, but I don’t have to. We already know what Aspen was like without it. There was the phase when it was nearly a ghost town after the silver-mining era and cheap housing was abundant because nobody wanted to live here. That was followed by skiing, which quickly made Aspen expensive by popular demand. It became obvious to most citizens that something had to be done to help the average worker live here or the quality of life for everyone would suffer bigly!

What the good citizens of Aspen came up with is not a Socialist redistribution of wealth forced upon the rich by a Bolshevik uprising. It is an enterprising solution brought to fruition by popular vote through the democratic process that pretty much benefits everyone in town — the working and the wealthy, seasonal visitors and year-round locals alike. The affordable-housing program Aspen has come up with, imperfect as it undoubtedly is as a living work in process, is a tremendous enhancement to the quality of life here.

So, while it is obvious that subsidized housing did not cause Aspen’s real estate to be expensive, it is fair to say that the program has propped up property values by making Aspen a better place to live. The better product commands a higher price. Are we crazy for supporting this? Well, it may be true that we are all here because we are not all there, but how many of us believe Aspen would be improved by abolishing employee housing and throwing half our population in jail? Maybe it would be better to just keep tweaking the program a little bit here and there.

Roger Marolt believes his mind has been wire-tapped by the Socialists. Email roger@maroltllp.com.


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