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Housing: Where Social Justice Confronts Economics


Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” lists shelter as a fundamental requirement for a secure life. But thousands of people living and working in our economic region — from Aspen to Parachute — are coping with housing insecurity.

“We need upward of 6,000 homes just to house the people adequately who are already here,” said Gail Schwartz, director of Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley. “People who are traveling four hours a day; multiple families living in a two-bedroom apartment; people living in garages. Their instability because of cost and utilities is what is so disruptive to our economy and our communities.

“This is a social justice issue, when you have people traveling long distances and leaving children to fend for themselves. It is wrong for our region. Affordable housing is the underpinning of our success as a community, long term.”

Schwartz, a former Colorado state senator, has been a leader in affordable housing in western Colorado for a half-century. Her vocation began more than 50 years ago when she worked for Snow Engineering, a community planning firm that focused on mountain resorts across North America.