Roger Marolt: Battling the crisis in Aspen with a steak and potato
My plan is to stop at the grocery store on the way home and buy a New York strip and potato. This easy meal for one bought without a shopping list for the week will start some talking. “There’s a crisis in the Marolt household!”
Although there are not many dots to connect, assuredly someone will try. It’s typical small-town stuff. A rabble-rouser will conclude that Susan has left me and my daughter has run away. A busybody will rumor that I am living in my mother’s guest room. A real estate agent will want to show me one-bedroom condominiums for sale between Glenwood and Rifle.
Bring them on! While my wife is busy with the school board and my daughter hangs with friends celebrating a day off from school tomorrow, I plan to grill my steak while microwaving my spud and wash them down with a cold one slouched in my favorite living room chair in front of a baseball game on the television. I’ll turn it up loud. I won’t bother to switch my fork back and forth between my right and left hands between cuts and bites. I’ll be rooting for the Dodgers, not the Houston team named after artificial grass. Or was it the other way around? I don’t care. I’m not getting any home cooking or the comfort of familial chit-chat around the dinner table tonight. I will make the best of it.
It is similar to the affordable housing crisis that I am convinced will never be. Yes, there is less affordable housing than desired. The process to get what we do have is frustrating. The old folks who have it don’t appear inclined to give it up anytime soon. Some aged complexes are falling apart, and they’re fighting in court to see who has to pay for the repairs.
So, where’s the crisis?
Puerto Rico has a crisis. We have a situation that could be better.
I could be wrong. I’ll admit that we might be on the brink of an affordable-housing crisis that I do not see coming. It wouldn’t be the first or last time I have been blindsided. I was sure the Broncos were going to waltz with the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIIZ (please excuse the Roman numeral typos. I meant “48”).
Let me paint the worst-case scenario with employee housing. We run out of places to build it. The people currently in it continue to stay in it until they die many, many, many decades from now. Current owners and local governments get caught up in a Supreme Court battle that lasts for years, and in the meantime much of the existing housing stock collapses for disrepair.
The result is that there are not enough employees to keep up the high standards our guests and locals are accustomed to. Tourists stop coming. Second-home owners sell out. Many locals get fed up and leave. Basically nobody wants to be in a place without caramel macchiato. Real estate plummets. We get the Quiet Years V.2. Everybody is happy except, ironically, the few remaining.
The good news is, if our housing situation is truly on the verge of crisis, this scenario will play out very rapidly. That’s what crises do best. There will be affordable-housing galore soon!
If, on the other hand, we do not really have a crisis looming, the local housing situation will evolve and morph and grind along slowly. Kind of like it has over the previous 50 years.
There will be new opportunities to build more housing, although probably nothing on a huge scale. Some retires will move away or trade down, while others downsize their work schedules and continue to contribute in other meaningful ways to be a net positive value to the community. Our governments will come up with innovative ways to partner financially with workers on free-market housing co-op solutions. And don’t forget technology. Driverless cars, for one, will change everything we currently know about commuting. Solutions will come from places we can’t now envision. For the patient and persistent, things have usually worked out.
The last thing we need is a local battle fueled by ageism. We don’t need to encourage fights between neighbors and friends. Debates about preferences in housing for more critical workers don’t need to be socially engineered to the point of hard feelings and inspired jealousy. In the end, it is not fear itself that we really need to fear. It is fear of each other that will do the most damage to our town.
Roger Marolt only believes in crisis management in the unlikely event of an actual crisis. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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