Writer: Thinks locals first for housing
Editor’s note: The following commentary will appear in the print edition of the upcoming Saturday edition of The Aspen Times.
I am Scott Writer and I am running for Pitkin County commissioner because of my love for this community and my deep concern for our future.
I am not worried about the old-timers who have their piece of the rock. I am worried about the future old-timers, today’s youth, and how they will make this their home. Current polices leave no room or opportunity for them. I care about their future, which is the community’s future. Self-sustaining communities plan for, and care about, those generations coming behind them and how they might fit in and make it. Who are our next community leaders? Our current policy effectively tells successful young adults here to move downvalley, be a part of those communities — and I don’t like it. There isn’t room for everyone, but there should be room for some.
I also count myself as a slow-grow to no-grow advocate. I think my policy ideas make me slower grow than current policies. Because of the history I have in the real estate business, I am being falsely painted as a pro-grow guy. It is not true. In fact, it is my experience in real estate that is in part what inspires me to be slow- to no-grow. When I say slow- to no-grow, I mean this: There are free-market units that have not been built yet, our “legal capacity” still suggests that there are 1,000 to 1,200 units still to be built in the county, so the county is only about 55 percent “built out.” Aspen is about 90 percent “built out.” So no matter what kind of “grow” you say you are, there will be growth. To pretend otherwise is to really lie to the electorate.
I asked my opponent what he was going to do about those “to-be-built” units and he said he “didn’t know.” So on the one hand, we all want to be no growth, yet on the other there are property-rights owners out there who do not deserve to have their rights taken from them. So “no grow” or not there will be growth. Acknowledging that doesn’t make me a supporter of it; it makes me a practical guy trying to tackle real issues, and unlike my opponent, I have deep experience in this arena and have been living it for over 30 years policy-wise.
True, practical slow-growth advocates like me have plans to reduce/eliminate those remaining undeveloped free-market opportunities. It is a multi-prong approach that follows two general paths: 1) buy development property and sterilize it (eg with Open Space funds) and 2) convent as much of the growth we can’t escape from “bad growth” to “good growth.” As commissioner, I want to pursue development plans that are good for the county — its people, environment and economy.
Good vs. bad development. This is probably over stated, someone building a free-market home isn’t really “bad,” and I respect the dream of owning a home here — It was always my dream. But I don’t see how more free-market homes help the community. I think we need more affordable-housing opportunities in the county. People hear this and think I mean “more” total units — no. I mean, we as a county should change our land-use code to fairly incentivize those remaining undeveloped units to be affordable when they are developed. This doesn’t necessarily mean more.
Look, reducing the number of available units increases prices. That is inescapable. Our values will always be high and we can’t change that, but we can create a real estate market that identifies locals as the primary market. Right now codes promote free-market homes, not on purpose, but that is what we are getting. The codes should reflect our values and reach for our goals. My goal is more locals living in Pitkin County (not downvalley where my opponent wants them), so change the codes to promote affordable housing in the county replacing undeveloped (or convert existing) free-market units. I think this is good for us as a community and good for our economy. My goal is for locals to be able to participate in the local real estate market. I say to have any chance of retaining a true, multi-generational and self-sustaining community we must have affordable housing in the county, too. Every kind of unit we can think of to replace free market units. It is not about more; it is about better.
Locals first. Peace. Vote Scott Writer for Pitkin County commissioner.
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