Letter: Systemic problems
We talk about problems in our society as systemic, like discrimination against African Americans, women, minorities, gender choices, etc. For the past 30 years, we have had a systemic lack of affordable housing in our valley that hasn’t been seriously recognized until now. Like the warming of our planet, once the problem is ignored for a long time, it becomes so entrenched and systemic that it is extremely difficult to put the problem genie back into the bottle.
If the growth of our local economy had helped to mitigate the problems of affordable housing and other negative impacts, we would have had a chance to reduce these systemic impacts. After years of community comprehensive plans, affordable housing commissions, affordable housing seminars, master plans, linkage and inclusionary zoning ordinances not implemented, we have not succeeded in putting the affordable housing problem back into the bottle.
The focus has now shifted to fulfilling the demand for “workforce housing.” The term “workforce housing” seems like an indentured servant program providing cheap, short-term housing for seasonal employees, and then they are gone. Public funding from our community, state, city, county and federal governments, grants and tax credit programs are subsidizing and providing affordable “workforce housing” for local businesses and companies.
Why? Because the employees are not paid a living wage, we have a speculative real estate market, they are working in very stressful jobs, they don’t feel appreciated, and they can’t find affordable, safe and secure housing. Many of them are surviving in a difficult living environment instead of being able to enjoy our amazing valley, which drew them here in the first place.
Projects like the Brown Ranch should and could have happened several decades ago if we had made sure that our successful economy had addressed the problems it created. The affordable housing professionals in Steamboat Springs acknowledge that the Brown Ranch project will not solve our affordable housing challenges, even though it will be an incredible example of a sustainable, well-planned, integrated community.
Since it is unlikely that a $24 million windfall will drop into our laps again, it seems that now we need to develop source(s) of funding to purchase land, build infrastructure, construct affordable housing and ease the development requirements of affordable housing for full time employees and citizens to purchase, not just short-term, rental “workforce housing.”
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