Sunday, January 24, 2016

Income inequality--ski resort style

The New York Times reports today on how workers in ski resorts in Colorado cannot afford to live there.  This is, of course, not really "news" (as we have addressed it here and here), but Jack Healy suggests the problem has gotten worse recently.  It's not just a function of rural gentrification--but of the widening inequality gap in our nation.  Here's an excerpt.
These days, soaring home prices and a shift toward weekend vacation rentals have created a housing crisis in ski country, one that has people piling into apartments, camping in the woods and living out of their trailers and pickup trucks.
* * *  
Some are sleeping in their bosses’ spare bedrooms. The 2,300-person town of Telluride in southwest Colorado toyed with building tiny houses as a stop gap. In Steamboat Springs, Colo., where the vacancy rate for multifamily rental units was zero at the end of last year, bus drivers and hotel housekeepers have been living out of two motels converted to de facto dormitories.
The story quotes the mayor of Jackson Hole, where the median price of a single family home rose to $1.2 million last year, up nearly 25%.
When I go to the grocery store, I see the people who are sleeping in shifts. We see the gap continuing to widen between the uppermost levels of income earners and the rest.
While many ski towns have long built affordable housing, officials now indicate that the demand far exceeds the supply.  Breckenridge, county seat of Summit County, is now building 45 small apartments, with hundreds more in development.  The county is also checking to ensure that that those getting the benefit of employee housing are not subletting to "vacationing snowbirds."  Elisabeth Lawrence of the Breckenridge Town Council explains:
It’s so important that Breckenridge retain this identity of having locals live here.  ... Real town, real people.
Great idea.  Sounds like Breckenridge is doing more than most to keep things "real."

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