Regional Study Diagnoses Housing Crunch, Says Cure Is Collaboration

May 16, 2019

Credit Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority

Two years ago, communities from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and Parachute to Eagle funded a regional housing study.


It was completed earlier this spring and argues that regional problems require regional solutions.


The study’s findings measure the severity of problems many in the region already know.

It’s been reported, for example, that the population is getting older and retiring. The study finds that in the next decade, the 65-and-older population will increase by nearly 8,000 people, which is a 60 percent increase.

Aspen is often labeled the culprit when people talk about the housing squeeze. It has more jobs than available housing. That’s the case for Glenwood Springs, too.  

David Schwartz, one of the authors on the study, said the commuting patterns in the region don’t look that different than the Los Angeles area, just on a much smaller scale.

The study analyzes many reasons for why housing is hard to come by. Second homeowners are one reason; the more they buy, the less there is for everyone else. The study also says non-local ownership here can make owning a home here risker for everyone else.

When the economy is good, home prices go higher and higher because second homeowners can pay them. In the event of an economic downturn, the investors leave and prices fall, which means volatility for the locals who have managed to buy property.  

Even if people wanted to buy homes, many can’t. The study finds that people aren’t taking out new mortgages. People are renting, which is expensive. Health insurance is also expensive. People are saddled with student loans.

When it’s all said and done, for plenty of people here, there’s nothing left at the end of the month. People here are what’s called “cost-burdened.” This means, each year, over $50 million is not spent in bars and restaurants, but instead goes to landlords or to banks, in the form of a mortgage payment.

David Schwartz says the housing situation won’t get better without a bold solution.

The valley needs more housing, which requires funding; ultimately, a new tax could be required to address the problem.