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Failure is Not an Option in Seeking Affordable Workforce Solutions

Gail schwartz; Post independent

“Failure is not an option,” said Clark Anderson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Community Builders in Glenwood Springs. “At the same time, when we look at the gap between where we are and where we need to be, failure is the most likely outcome under the circumstances and systems we have in place right now.” Clark’s comments served as an introduction to a panel of County Commissioners representing Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield Counties at a Regional Summit on Solving the Affordable Housing Crisis, which Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley hosted at the Aspen Meadows in March.

The bright spot in what may feel like a dim outlook is that our local governments — both cities and counties — are uniquely poised and qualified to address some of the most challenging affordable housing pinch points. Local governments alone cannot do all the heavy lifting, but they can make the lift easier for local businesses, nonprofits, philanthropists, developers and financiers by adopting land use policies that encourage and facilitate the creation of more affordable housing stock to stabilize our communities.

There is a construct of current land use policy that is headed toward the failed outcome that Clark mentions. Today, for every new development that is approved in communities from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, only 10 to 30 percent of the new units are required by code to be dedicated to affordable workforce housing. Unless our local governments make changes to adapt to the workforce housing crisis, we will continue to see the vast majority of new developments sold on the free market with prices continuing to rise as demand increases.