Vaughan: Housing tension inherent
Millard Zimet’s recent emulation of Cato the Elder is erudite, but his proposed solutions to Aspen’s perennial affordable housing conundrum — eliminating the APCHA deed restrictions and APCHA itself — miss the mark.
It is true that, from one perspective, APCHA housing is a massive market distortion, providing housing in the upper Roaring Fork at a cost that the free market cannot replicate even as far down valley as De Beque, all paid for largely by the second/third/fourth home industry that forms much of the backbone of our economy. But, “the most powerful political force abroad in our community is” not, as Zimet contends, resentment, but enlightened self-interest.
It is nothing but rational for those voters who reside in such housing to elect and re-elect officials who will protect and preserve it. If the deed restrictions to APCHA ownership properties were eliminated, most of those owners and their families would be forced out by the Invisible Hand (and the tax assessor), and not just downvalley, but out of the valley altogether. What would remain would be the Beverly Hills of the Rockies.
On the other hand, Tony Vagneur’s recent echoing of the Red Ant’s cri du coeur does give one pause. If in-fill developers in Aspen are allowed to cram substandard, jail cell-sized housing into every remaining unbuilt nook and cranny under the guise of affordable housing — or so long as the cellblock has a Victorian facade — that’s not going to do much to preserve community character, either.
The fact is that the tension between affordable housing and growth control is inherent. There is no magic bullet that will make it go away. But, until some free-market advocate has a better solution, there’s no one better qualified at managing that tension than the voters and their elected representatives.