(This letter was originally address to the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners.)
What the local housing market needs is a market for those currently in affordable housing and locals to move up in the real estate market. Find a way for locals to share in the real estate profits while using the current employee housing market (over 2,000 units) as a “gateway” to higher value housing and in turn, higher net worth for locals.
Real estate investment is the one feasible opportunity for those in the current affordable market to build a nest egg that will allow them to retire comfortably (and hopefully in Aspen). Yet, decision makers to date seem determined to keep employees “in their place,” and provide no real opportunity for locals to move up and share in the prosperity. The real estate market (for those of us who haven’t inherited millions of dollars) is like a ladder. The bottom rungs are the affordable housing market, and the upper rungs are the free market.
Just about anyone can get on the ladder — thanks to the great work of visionaries who created the affordable housing market — but as the locals on this ladder work their way up they find there are no middle rungs. No way to work their way up, and no way to increase their net worth. No way to reach the next rung, so they are stuck. No place to go.
Rather than build more of the same affordable housing, I say fill the middle rungs of the ladder in the real estate market so locals can prosper from the Aspen market, if they choose. This will provide greater stability in our local population, give locals a chance to share in real estate profits, give locals homes that more fit their dreams and lifestyles, and provide more lower-income units as those that already exist are vacated by those moving up the ladder. The market starts to move as people seek opportunity that currently leaves them stagnant. And, by the way, those middle rungs require less subsidy. Our kids can dream of living and prospering here, and there is nothing more productive than feeling like there is real opportunity, not just a place to live.
Let’s house locals. Let’s create a local housing market with variety and options. Let’s create hope and opportunity, not just more of the same.