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Aspen's Workforce Housing Buckling Under Weight of Aging Population

As residents of Aspen, Colorado's limited supply of workforce housing begin to retire, they're staying put, creating a new affordable housing crunch for younger workers.
September 22, 2016, 9am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Ken Lund

Aspen, Colorado's affordable housing program has provided much needed housing for the city's workers, allowing those without seven-figure incomes to live in the city in which they work. However, the already limited supply of housing for the town's workforce is shrinking even further as residents begin to retire. Ben Markus of Marketplace reports that the city is facing what one official describes as "a ticking time bomb," with half of the residents of the affordable units expected to retire in 10 to 20 years and city limitation on new development restricting supply.

...what started as workforce housing is now showing its age, increasingly becoming retirement housing, raising fundamental questions about the program.

Take [74 year old resident Sara Garton]’s case. Her Aspen condo could sell on the open market for $1 million, but since it’s part of the affordable housing program, she estimates she could only get about $170,000 for it. So why would she sell?

There isn’t a retirement home here, and she doesn’t want to leave the city she’s called home for decades.

Aspen is a town where fund managers drive Ferraris and bartenders get around on bicycles. The program was built so both could live here.

“The people who created the program back in the 70s, they never thought they were going to get old,” City Councilman Adam Frisch said. “And they never thought the buildings were going to get old.”

Markus reports that for now younger workers have to rely on a lottery system which parcels out available units to residents, otherwise they're forced to live miles away and commute in.

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Published on Friday, August 26, 2016 in Marketplace
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