Letter from Editor vol1:2

Thinking About the End Goal

In this second issue, we hope to start a critical conversation about mountain town affordable housing.

In surveys across mountain towns, housing consistently ranks among the most critical problems, with a lack of homes that are affordable to local works underpinning almost every other local issue. Many communities have been working to solve this problem for years, even decades, and yet it persists. So, with this issue of the Independent, we want to start to think about why.

We could delve farther into the fine grained details, but, really the issue is simple: we live in particularly nice places. And the result is that, short of really dramatic, mountain-leveling change in the scenery or the market, it is likely that there will always be demand for the dirt we live on. The median home sale price in Telluride in 2017 was $1.75 million, which puts it an order of magnitude higher than the national median and far out of reach for local workers with a median income of $79,000. Despite the challenges that that creates, when the town has surveyed the regional population, more people consistently want to move here than can fit. We have targets to house 60-70% of our workforce locally, but, unless demand drops, there’s probably always going to be a waiting list to live in town for the other 30-40%.

With that in mind, when we talk about solving the housing crisis we need to evaluate what exactly that means. What would it look like if the problem was solved? How would we know when we got there?

Setting numerical housing targets, need and demand gaps to fill, is useful for planning but it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and forget to consider what they represent.

When we take action, we need to think not just in terms of how many heads might hit the pillows in the rooms we’re building, but in terms of the kinds of communities we want to live in when those minds come together. We live in amazing places and, as we seek to make them more perfect, it’s important that we take a long view and try to understand where the choices we make now will lead us.

So, in this issue we’ve combined a few data points to help compare town to town along with a series of articles and opinions that we hope will start a critical conversation about affordable housing beyond the numbers.

The public consensus is that we clearly want it. We at the Independent want to think about the end goal.

By Alec Jacobson

Alec Jacobson is the Executive Director of the Mountain Independent. He is also a National Geographic Young Explorer, and has worked around the world as a photographer and writer focusing on slow moving stories.