Ski towns across the state are facing an out-of-control housing crisis that has driven families out and prevented new families from moving to Colorado’s resort counties. It’s easy to blame vacation homes and AirBNBs for the housing crisis, but the real cause is much simpler: there simply isn’t enough accommodation.
Why not? Because the residents of the ski resorts oppose any proposal for new accommodation. Second home owners and landlords have been a convenient scapegoat for ski resort communities unwilling to face a very uncomfortable reality – that their anti-development attitudes, colloquially referred to as NIMBY, or Not in my garden are the cause of the problem.
The housing developments that encounter the most opposition are dense multi-family developments that are often the most affordable housing for employees.
Ski-town residents will use every excuse in the book to oppose development; for proof, look no further than the letters to the editor published in the Vail Daily about the Booth Heights workforce housing development. Some letters expressed spurious concerns about environmental impact and whether the companies could make money. Others simply objected to the development because it was too big or because it would be “awesome”.
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Aspen recently banned all new home building permits as part of its bid to crack down on short-term rentals. The emergency order imposing this moratorium stated that it was doing so “to preserve [Aspen’s] unique community character.
Concerns about preserving community or neighborhood character are common among residents who enjoy the small-town feel of places like Aspen. Historically, however, concerns about neighborhood character have been used as anti-housing development rhetoric by groups seeking to ward off the “wrong” kinds of people – racial groups, immigrants or the working class.
The people of Aspen may not have the same malicious intent as groups of the past, but the result remains the same. Aspen preserves its “unique character” at the expense of the working class.
Small town aesthetics, mountain views and a desire to keep property values high were favored over housing security for local workers. The consequences of NIMBYism within ski resort communities grew for decades, culminating in the issues that plague them today.
The current labor shortage at ski resorts is one of the problems created by NIMBYism. Some residents have complained the shortage of staff on the mountains and tried to blame the companies that manage the mountains, regardless of any role they may have played in creating the problem. Vail Resorts has its issues, but it’s hard to see them as the villain as they tried to proactively create employee housing, only to be shut down by the same people who are now complaining about labor shortages. work.
By opposing affordable housing developments at all times, communities have made it impossible for seasonal workers who maintain ski resorts to live there.
Ski resort NIMBYism has not only been bad for workers; it’s bad for the environment. Dense, multi-family developments have faced intense opposition, as residents frequently oppose these developments based on incredibly hypocritical environmental concerns and in direct conflict with the evidence.
Countless studies have shown that dense multi-family housing is one of the best types of housing for the climate and the environment. Despite the evidence, ski resort residents only ever seem to organize against climate-friendly multi-family housing, and never against low-density single-family housing developments.
Vail owners spent years opposing Booth Heights’ proposal out of “concern” that a 61-unit development on 5.5 acres of land would harm a herd of bighorn sheep. They care little, however, about the impact of their golf course occupying 130 acres of wilderness, or their neighborhood with 110 housing units spread over nearly 40 acres.
NIMBYism has taken its toll on Colorado’s incredible ski resorts and will only continue to do so if we don’t abandon these attitudes and embrace YIMBYism – Yes In My Backyard. Building dense housing estates is the only way to save our workers, our economy and our environment.
Tobin Stone, from Gypsum, is a senior at Albright College in Pennsylvania, studying political science and public policy. Twitter: @tobinjstone
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